Rivian had a number of challenges in designing a new office and headquarters for its fast growing company.
The electric vehicle startup had to incorporate multiple functions and processes into the space: offices, light manufacturing, prototyping and design, and food production, to name a few. It had a vision of merging industrial and outdoor aesthetics that mirror the company’s brand—yes, it’s an automaker, but one that builds sustainable vehicles usable in off-road settings. The space had to be flexible, both because partnerships with corporate giants like Amazon and Ford would require new designs, but also because its workforce was growing rapidly. Oh, and it wanted to do so affordably and as quickly as possible.
Somehow, it managed to pull it all off. In 2018, the company moved its headquarters into an Albert Kahn–designed warehouse in Plymouth after a design phase of about five weeks and a redevelopment that took less than five months. There’s a lot to admire about the final result, led by couple Larry and Mandi Parker.
When Rivian first chose to lease a 95,000 square-foot bay in the historic building, a fair amount of restoration was required. Previous tenants had installed drop ceiling and raised floors, and painted and foamed over the gorgeous industrial windows.
“We hand scraped the windows clean one by one,” says Mandi Parker, owner of TWNS Studio.
Visitors enter the building through an unassuming entrance and waiting area. But after crossing the threshold into the office itself, they’re greeted to a soaring space with lots of visual interest. Only once your initial wonder wears off do you notice the use of unistrut, metal mesh, plywood, shipping blankets, shipping containers, and other humble materials.
“It’s about being responsible as a pre-revenue company operating on investment dollars,” Larry Parker says. “We didn’t want to create a sense of opulence, but simply great design through accessible, everyday materials.”
The space is in an industrial setting, but that feeling is enhanced through industrial lighting and polished concrete floors. To create a sense of the outdoors, there’s plentiful natural light and greenery, as well as strategic use of wood cladding. “Most days, you don’t really need the lights on,” Mandi Parker says.
Much of the furniture, including the long island countertops and cabinets, as well as the mezzanine, was custom designed by Mandi herself.
The space very much functions as an open office plan. There are some dividers and trellises, and a few private places, but there are practically no private offices—even the company’s CEO Robert “R.J.” Scaringe uses a hot desk. Many of the conference rooms have glass doors and windows, and rooms flow one to the next.
Separate spaces for prototype manufacturing, engineering, and design, are even more open. There’s little blocking and bright lights so nothing is hidden from the specialists. Wide hallways allow vehicles to drive in and out of the building.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is accommodating Rivian’s constantly growing workforce. As recently as 2014, there were 15 employees. Today, there are around 1,850. “We’re at such a tremendous growth curve it’s hard to predict. You can’t plan for some of this stuff,” Larry Parker says.
As a result, the space is constantly evolving. The company has expanded so fast that the bay no longer comfortably fits everyone, and some desk space has had to replace lounge areas.
But that is temporary. Soon the company will expand into a second 100,000-square-foot bay at the facility and build out an industrial kitchen and food program for its employees. There are also smaller projects meant to enhance workplace satisfaction underway, like the conversion of a shipping container into a full-service cafe.
They say that when building something, you can only select two of affordability, speed, and quality. With its headquarters, Rivian managed all three. Look at some more photos below to see for yourself.