Founded in Roseau, Minnesota, in 1954, Polaris Inc. manufactures motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, and neighborhood electric vehicles. Since its inception, Polaris has risen to prominence as the premier manufacturer of outdoor motorsport vehicles in the United States. With over 400 employees to date, the company sought the expertise of global architecture, design, and strategy firm NELSON Worldwide. Having worked with NELSON on office renovations across the country, Polaris tapped the firm to reconceptualize their headquarters and create a space that hones employee well-being, elevates brand identity, and emphasizes company culture. The office includes upgraded workspaces, a showroom experience, a branded cafeteria, and a retail store. Located in Medina, Minnesota, the 124,528 square-foot facility will showcase all 30 brands under the Polaris umbrella.
For the HQ, NELSON and Polaris came together to create a design concept that conveyed the brands guiding principles: “Best People, Best Team,” and “Safety and Ethics Always.” Welcoming guests and employees is a new architectural expansion equipped with a visitor entrance and security desk. NELSON’s additions to the existing atrium included matching the glazing and roof structure for a cohesive design between old and new. Furthermore, large wood and stone forms extend from exterior to interior, truly bringing the “outdoors in.” A feature vehicle display is anchored by a custom color-changing LED “North Star” ceiling element. With increased vendor conferencing in a central location, employees can now meet and greet their guests nearby the product showroom. Open, collaborative spaces are included throughout the lobby for employees and their guests to kick the tires with intermittent meeting spaces from end to end. A separate employee entrance enters this space creating a more efficient circulation for day-to-day workers.
In the middle of the showroom experience is the reconceptualized Polaris retail store. Having the retail product and the vehicles experienced together in the same zone allowed the Polaris ride culture to come to life. Upon reviewing retail design strategies, the team moved forward with an organization of merchandise based on three major “zones”: On-road (including Indian Motorcycle and RZR), Off-road (including snow and ATV), and Aftermarket Brands (including riding gear and vehicle accessories).
Deeper into the space is the renovated employee atrium. Here, employees can meet with others in a more casual lounge setting. Anchoring the space is a custom-wrapped digital fireplace. Maintaining the theme of “bringing the outside in ” the palette throughout the headquarters focuses on natural woods, stones, and tones found in nature with a contrasting element of precision metals and branded blues which highlight the materiality of the vehicle themselves.
With a spotlight on employee amenities, NELSON reimagined Polaris’ collaboration and gathering zones. By centralizing all vehicle displays to the showroom, the team created more breakout spaces within the open office and introduced new graphic displays. This included updated employee work cafes, a new boardroom and executive pantry, and the refresh of all employee work zones.
NELSON redesigned and expanded offerings within the cafe. NELSON redesigned and expanded offerings in the cafe encouraging employees to gravitate beyond their lunch hour. Branded as the Indian Motorcycle Café, one of the 30 brands under Polaris, this space brings Indian Motorcycle to life through tufted banquettes that match detailing of their leather seats, chrome pipes similar to the vehicle exhaust, a custom pipe-style lighting installation, and a personalized mosaic. The design team added additional seating and tables that extended from the atrium lounge to the café to make the space more welcoming. In addition, Polaris embraced increased technology through an app-based ordering service, self-pay stations, and a digitized queue system. With a new coffee shop experience, a market for after-hours employees, and a new centralized salad bar, the Indian Motorcycle Cafe increases selections for the employees.
Polaris originated as a snowmobile company, but the brand has evolved to an outdoor business that services a diverse customer base. As Polaris adds new vehicles and equipment to its portfolio, the brand also adapts over the years. Today, the new HQ leverages signage and art to tell the story of Polaris. In the cafe, old photos are on display to show the history of Indian Motorcycles. The boardroom also features a blue wall with quotes and statements that resonate with Polaris’ leadership. Additionally, the Polaris vehicles are highlighted within graphics throughout the major circulation corridors, and a prominent Adam Turman mural that is painted outside the boardroom and able to be seen throughout the atrium.
Overall, the reimagined space invites all shareholders to experience the Polaris culture. Today, the expansion and renovated headquarters is an all-encompassing physical representation of Polaris’s goals for its growing staff, brand, and company mission.