Of Note: Michelin's reimagined company HQ

Perhaps you’re familiar with the origin story of the Michelin Guide. The restaurant bible started in 1900 as a marketing initiative by the company to encourage more road travel, and hence boost tire sales. Here’s another, more recent spark of Michelin genius…

The company has reimagined their HQ in the French town of Clermont-Ferrand. But they haven’t settled for any old refurb that’ll feel tired (sorry…) in just a few years.

Instead, Michelin know that what happens inside their organization can - and will - have an outsize impact on what happens outside. They’re thinking Inside Out.

Here are three things Michelin did differently during their HQ renovation project:

👨‍👩‍👧 1. Employees as part of the project: The two highest priorities of the project were 1) improving how the headquarters interfaced with the public; and 2) utilizing and showcasing sustainable processes. How did they decide this? The company asked their employees, bringing them into the process from the start.

(Pro Tip: this is also good for business: the lead architect believes taking this approach won his the firm the job in the first place).

🌳 2. Default to public: A tree-lined plaza that was private to Michelin employees is now a public space. It includes a store, exhibition space, glasshouse museum, and a cafe. This space creates more jobs and makes the space useable for more people and events. And the vibe is more concert hall than corporate HQ.

Architect Nicola Delon said “We wanted to make a transformation with a minimum of materials. And we told Michelin that you cannot be behind a wall, a separate place. You are the largest employer in the city. You must embed yourself into the city.”

🧱 3. Make the most of existing assets: The most sustainable building is typically the one that’s already built. The company wanted to ditch a greenhouse they’d had for decades, but instead the architects incorporated it into the new design. And because the local area is boiling hot in summer and rainy in winter, the key new addition was a curved wooden canopy to protect visitors in any weather. The canopy materials all came from within an hour of the site.

What do you think of the reimagined Michelin HQ?

P.S. They haven’t disclosed if the company cafe has won any Michelin stars.