OPINION: The Aston Martin Formula 1 team has broken ground on a new campus that the team believes is an important step in its journey towards becoming a regular frontrunner. In an exclusive column, team owner Lawrence Stroll explains why the team's new base will amount to much more than a series of buildings.
I am old enough to remember the 1989 Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams, in which Costner plays an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball pitch in his cornfield that attracts the ghosts of legendary baseball players from the past.
It’s a hokey but fun movie – most memorably, however, it introduced the phrase, ‘If you build it, they will come’ into our cultural lexicon. It is the idea that – somehow, somewhere – by reaching out and creating something vital and inspiring, you can attract the right people into your world.
I set out to conceive Aston Martin Cognizant’s new Formula 1 factory with that concept in my mind.
We already have a fantastic team of people working together in a small but highly functional factory environment – but we want to improve that workspace. Too often, it feels as though we unnecessarily expend energy to accommodate the environment, and I want us to fix that, but without losing the unique esprit de corps that unifies us.
And that does not start with an architectural blueprint for a building. It starts with discussion groups; it starts with gaining an understanding for what our people want; what currently makes their jobs worthwhile; and what they might need to make them better.
We literally went around every department in the factory and dug deep to discover what worked, what did not work, and what was needed so that we could build the ultimate F1 team.
A lot of that was obvious: bigger and better facilities, proximity to adjoining departments, more spaces in which to meet and communicate, ample car parking. But we also learned a lot more: people dedicate their lives to F1, and they need facilities that help them live happily and healthily within the workplace.
Only once we were armed with that vital information did we start speaking to architectural practices about bringing that disparate set of variables to life; about creating a factory and a home in which to house our people and their creativity.
The result, I hope you will agree, is spectacular. As well as giving people the state-of-the-art equipment and resources they need to work properly, we expanded our ideas to create the ultimate working environment.
The campus will house our brand-new windtunnel – the first time the team has ever had a best-in-class on-site aerodynamic facility – which will significantly increase our capacity to develop and refine our aero performance. For our technical team, it will be a huge and meaningful step forward
In the past 18 months, we have learned a lot about how people live and work. They take their work home with them, they bring their home life into work with them, so we wanted to reflect the changing balance of life and work; ultimately looking ahead to the ways we will be working 10 or 20 years from now.
We rethought the whole notion of a factory. We have created a collaborative, social workspace – one where departments can meet and talk; where ideas can cross-pollinate; and where free thinking is encouraged. We will still be laminating front wings – just like everybody else – but in a space that feels fresh, new and positive.
Elsewhere, we have incorporated a restaurant and a coffee shop that will serve fantastic, healthy meals – with input from nutritionists and dieticians – to provide the fuel for our ideas. We are landscaping outdoor recreation spaces, including a walking track and running circuit, and a fitness centre with state-of-the-art gym equipment, dedicated fitness trainers and opportunities for all our staff to exercise. I am a firm believer that providing opportunities for mental and physical health to everyone is not an optional extra, but a necessity that adds a sense of overall wellbeing and peace of mind to the entire workforce.
Our offices are open-plan – featuring spaces that can be adapted as we grow: alongside desk space, we are also providing creative areas for meetings, small rooms for individual Zoom/Teams calls, and small hubs where handfuls of people can meet to work collaboratively. We will build filming and photographic studios so that our comms and marketing teams have the space to create professional-quality work for our fans and partners. That flexibility, I believe, is key to ensuring that we remain agile and adaptable in the years ahead.
In an additional building, we will also create an exhibition and innovation space – an area separate from the factory where we can host meetings and events for our partners, guests and staff – all created with that same philosophy of a flexible working space for all.
Finally, the campus will house our brand-new windtunnel – the first time the team has ever had a best-in-class on-site aerodynamic facility – which will significantly increase our capacity to develop and refine our aero performance. For our technical team, it will be a huge and meaningful step forward.
We are living in the era of data, and our new headquarters will benefit from comprehensive ‘smart factory’ connectivity. Cloud data will push our supply-chains along, autonomously power our machining and production processes, and regulate and optimise our entire working environment. To that, we are indebted to our title partner Cognizant, who are working hand-in-glove with our developers to ensure that we will have the most advanced digital infrastructure in the world.
Despite all our efforts to transform Aston Martin Cognizant digitally and physically, one message is always clear: a building is only as great as the people within it. As such, we are creating a great home for our great people, and we are actively scouting for more.
If you like what you hear, and you are determined to win in whatever sector you work in, come and talk to us. We are thinking ahead, as you are too, and we can do it together.