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Kia opens new Design Center America

Tue, 08 Jul 2008

Kia Motors has opened its new Design Center America, located adjacent to the new US corporate headquarters in Irvine, California, about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The opening ceremony of the new US 21.8-acre Kia Corporate campus was held on June 24 and was presided by Byung Mo Ahn, group president and CEO of Kia Motors America and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia. He was joined at the ceremony by both local and state representatives, as well as members of the media and guests. The grand opening ceremony was followed by a luncheon in the lobby of the new corporate headquarters and a guided tour of the design studio.

During the ceremony presentation, Peter Schreyer, Chief Design Officer of Kia Motors since 2006, emphasized Kia Motors' commitment to design and how the opening of the new California Design Center would further strengthen this. He then introduced Tom Kearns, Chief Designer of Kia Design Center America who joined Kia Motors approximately four years ago from General Motors where he most recently oversaw the design of the Cadillac CTS. He explained that the establishment of the first Kia-exclusive US design center would allow his team to maximize their abilities and their creativity in a highly functional environment.

From day one, Kearns has been involved in the planning and design of the new center. Function, Kearns says, was the utmost important aspect in designing the facility. The front entrance and lobby areas have a grand and solid, yet stylish and modern feel to them with floor to ceiling glass windows framed in black. It creates a feeling of security essential in protecting the intellectual design activities happening inside. Once you enter the design studio however, you are welcomed by openness and the feeling of warmth is inviting. The high ceiling of the studio has glass windows in nearly every possible direction, creating plenty of natural light inside.

Kearns is especially proud of the indoor presentation room with two turntables, directly located in front of the modeling area. "The idea was having an open space promoting the transparency and interaction between various design and production staff," he told CDN. "Having a single level layout in the large space with no boundaries will help the designers feel lots of freedom, letting them explore new ideas."

The uncluttered open floorplan includes a horizontal layout of design management offices, design studio, modeling area and courtyard, helping maximize the staff's work flow. It also reflects 'the simplicity of a straight line' design theme, which is the new design direction of Kia design established by its Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer.

The 100,700-square-foot design center currently has about 32 permanent staff members, comprising of an international team of 20 creative and technical designers, 10 clay modelers, and two color & trim designers. They are augmented by 15 additional contract modelers. "We have a very diverse, international team with various backgrounds. It is exciting to be here, helping to shape the future of Kia Motors", said Frascella, designer of the Kue concept car which won the prestigious Eyes on Design award in 2007. The modeling area can accommodate up to eight full-size models simultaneously and has a separate milling shop that features a custom-built Zimmerman CNC. The virtual design review room features three full-size power walls and also often hosts sketch reviews.

Special attention was paid to make the whole campus eco-friendly as well. The Irvine campus is one of the first facilities in Irvine to voluntarily install a bioswale system in its parking lot to remove pollution from surface water runoff. The landscaping was designed with drought-resistant plants and reclaimed water is used both for landscaping irrigation and toilets.

The first production Kia from Kearn's team will be the Soul, which will officially debut at the Paris Motor Show in October, followed by the production version of the Koup concept car, which was unveiled earlier this year at New York Auto Show.

By Yichan Chung