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ABBREVIATIONS
Release 12.62
Architecture
John Hitchman
 
UNITED STATES EMBASSY, VAUXHALL, LONDON
Architect: KieranTimberlake
The designers of the new American Embassy, from whose 2010 competition-winning entry has emerged this imposing 12-storey cube encompassing some 48,000m2 of accommodation, have had a number of formidable challenges to overcome before arriving at such an apparently simple architectural form. The building occupies a prominent riverside location midway between Vauxhall Bridge and the enormous phoenix project that is Battersea Power Station. With Eero Saarinen’s 1960 embassy in Grosvenor Square becoming increasingly unsuitable and unable to satisfy contemporary security requirements, a move had to be made. The new location provides a site area large enough for a substantial stand-alone structure, surrounded by generous landscaping, hard and soft, which even extends to a water feature resembling a partial moat along one side.
Despite the well-publicised misgivings of the 45th US president regarding the lack of a Mayfair address, the new site does present some advantages over its predecessor: it is closer to the seat of government, with a clear line of sight to the Houses of Parliament and Victoria Tower; there are easily accessible links to public transport, with overground and underground rail connections and buses available close by; and the available site area allows for a sufficiently comprehensive security system to be implemented to meet current standards.
The extent of the immediate landscape setting, which links to other adjacent green areas and public parks forming part of a green corridor joining Vauxhall and Battersea, has permitted the required security arrangements to be subtly integrated into the various treatments of soft planting, ground cover and hard features. The building appears neither too defensive or aggressive at first sight, though of course the approaches to and entrances into the building are carefully orchestrated; visitors are vetted on arrival at one of the three gatehouses placed around the perimeter at a distance from the main building itself. Notwithstanding appearances, the embassy necessarily remains something of a fortress – despite being surrounded by public walkways, it is impossible to get closer than the gatehouse pavilions guarding the east, south and west (landside) approaches.
The cubic form of the building presents its own challenges. As a precise, self-contained, pure geometric form it is not easily adaptable to growth and change. As such it can seem isolated and mechanical, unwelcoming perhaps, but also capable of expressing ideas of solidity, permanence and strength, concepts that may be considered relevant for a building aiming to represent a set of cultural values associated with a nation. The embassy is set out on the site with its elevations facing the four cardinal points, an orientation that has generated, for environmental control reasons, a different treatment for the east, south and west elevations compared with the north, river-facing elevation.
All four elevations employ the same primary envelope: a high-performance, thermally broken, triple-glazed curtain wall system utilising laminated glass, rising from a double-height base of externally expressed tapering columns, though as a result of being tight to the recessed lower-level glazing, these do not for the most part form a true colonnade. The floor-to-floor glazing provides good internal daylighting to the deep-plan offices and is just one component among many setting extremely high standards for energy conservation and sustainability throughout. The repetitive simplicity of the glazed skin is relieved by the inclusion of long silvery finish vertical glass strips inset at intervals and staggered vertically to create a loose weave pattern.
This is only openly visible on the north elevation however as the other three facades of the building are partially concealed behind a sculptural brise-soleil, providing solar shading. The strongly modelled screen of stretched ETFE fabric panels projects clear of the main building face, supported by alternating short and long ‘hoops’, tubular steel outriggers, with each successive vertical rise displaced by a storey height to generate a strong interlocking diagonal pattern. While veiling much of the internal activities of the embassy from prying eyes, the undulating profiles of the screen provide shade and permit extensive views across London to be enjoyed from within. The fine sculpted finish sets the building apart from its more mundane neighbours (predominantly mainstream high-rise residential buildings).
The one visible disruption to the orderly manifestation of the facades occurs at high level at the north-east corner, where the glazed curtain wall and the solar shading elements are cut away to reveal the underlying structure. The resulting void functions as the ambassador’s open-air private terrace and enjoys a wide-ranging view across the city to the parliament buildings and Westminster. For security reasons, not much has been revealed about the internal organisation of the embassy, but the interior does feature six differently themed internal garden areas, functioning as break-out spaces from the office floors, some internal, some external, reflecting the many different landscapes of the North American continent. These double-height spaces are themed around specific climatic zones in the United States: Gulf coast, Midwest prairie, Pacific forest, desert canyons, Potomac river valley and Mid-Atlantic.
Each of the three entry pavilions is designated for a different use: the main entrance for dignitaries, official visitors and staff located on the east side; the consulate entrance to the south for those seeking visas and other consular facilities; and the third to the west for servicing, maintenance and deliveries. The double-height main entrance lobby features a large relief of the United States Great Seal accompanied by the engraved names of previous US ambassadors, while the lobby to the consular section features a more interesting art work in the form of Rachel Whiteread’s sculpture titled ‘US Embassy (Flat pack house; 2013-1015)’. This is a series of wall-mounted casts of a typical American flat pack timber house, separated into discrete sections to represent a kit of parts, the pair of triangulated gable fronts boldly pointing the way in. The route down to the main event space, at basement level, passes an enormous mural by Mark Bradford, an African-American artist, which makes great play with a multi-coloured smorgasbord of snatched words and quotations.
Throughout the building there has been a concentrated effort on achieving an exemplary level of energy performance and sustainability, with the designers working to environmental target ratings of BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and LEED ‘Platinum’. Many devices help to achieve this, including roof-mounted photovoltaic panels, harvested water for irrigation and toilet flushing, ground-source heat pumps and onsite combined heat and power generation, as well as the solar control measures provided by the external envelope. The substantial water feature on the north side acts as a balancing pond and regulates site water run-off so as not to overload the local drainage system.
While the substantial construction costs (along with the location) have been castigated by President Trump as representing ‘a lousy deal’, in fact the development has been completed more or less at no cost to the American taxpayer, with the US$1bn price tag being met by the sale of the former embassy in Grosvenor Square to Qatari developers, who plan a hotel conversion. Completed in January 2018, the new building is a dignified, sober and confident replacement of Saarinen’s much admired forerunner and one worthy of a more considered and rational judgement.
V&A DUNDEE, SCOTLAND
Architect: Kengo Kuma and Associates
While the Tate Gallery has become well known for its forays into satellite galleries, such as its Liverpool and St Ives outposts, for the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum this very unusual and strikingly modern building will be the first time that it has ventured outside its famous London base in Kensington. Dundee, situated on the north bank of the River Tay estuary on Scotland’s east coast, became the first UK city to be designated by UNESCO as a ‘City of Design’, an award recognising the city’s many contributions to the world of design. These cover such diverse areas as computer engineering, groundbreaking medical research and comics (Dundee has long been home to the firm of DC Thomson, publishers of such treasured items as The Beano).
Fittingly this new V&A outpost will function as a museum of design, with exhibitions from around the world as well as permanent galleries of Scottish design, installations by up-and-coming designers and exhibits drawn from the collections of the V&A as well as from museums and private collections in Scotland and worldwide.
As has become the pattern in recent decades, the implementation of a major cultural building has been the catalyst for a city-wide regeneration project. In Dundee it has focused around the riverside and docklands, with the intention of reinvigorating these industrial areas and reintegrating the city with its River Tay frontage, as well as attracting further investment and tourism. Winner of an architectural competition held in 2010, the design by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma originally placed the building entirely in the water, but technical difficulties and inevitable cost consequences resulted in it withdrawing to its present largely land-based but nevertheless prominent quayside location, just dipping its toes in the water (see Fig. 1). Sited over the former Earl Grey dock, which was infilled in the 1960s when the Tay Bridge was constructed, the building is highly visible not only from the bridge but as the visual termination of the view from Union Street in the city centre and as a striking stand-alone sculptural object in the wider context of the estuary.
V&A Dundee, Architect: Kengo Kuma & Associates
Fig. 1 V&A Dundee (section), Lead Architect: Kengo Kuma & Associates, Partners in charge: Kengo Kuma, Yuki Ikeguchi, Teppei Fujiwara, Project Architect: Maurizio Mucciola, Delivery Architect: PiM.studio, Executive Architect: James F. Stephen Architects
The sharply angular mass of the museum suggests references to the forms of a couple of ship’s hulls, but the main thrust of the design concept takes its inspiration from a rocky cliff face, a common feature of Scotland’s north-east coastline, layered with myriad striations of rock and with water lapping at its base. This idea is underpinned with a series of dramatic cantilevered structural wall sections constructed in black reinforced concrete, emphasising the underlying notion of a rocky natural outcrop, its faces jutting out over the river.
The structure is extremely complex, not only because of its waterside location but also arising from the underlying form, which is not too dissimilar from that of two interlinked inverted ziggurats, giving rise to a number of outwardly inclined cantilevered walls. Some of these cantilever out by as much as 19.5m while others curve and twist in section, adding further challenges for the contractors. A temporary coffer dam was required during the early construction stages to keep water away from the part of the site where the building juts out into the river. Linking the two primary elements of the structure together at the upper level enabled the engineers to achieve structural stability, with the roof-level trusses used to tie the building together having the fortuitous benefit of enabling largely column-free space for the main gallery spaces at second-floor level.
The cliff-like striations of the exterior are achieved through the use of rough-textured cast stone planks, suspended via metal fixings from the underlying black concrete walls. Some 2,300 planks were used, in varying lengths up to 4m and weighing up to 2.5 tonnes, each plank having two cast-in metal hooks to enable it to be fixed in place. A stone aggregate was chosen for its similar colouring to Dundee’s local stone; the deliberately rough textured finish gives the building a softer, more organic and natural feel. The gaps left between the planks provide opportunities for long horizontal slot windows to be inserted and also generate a dynamic shadow pattern that changes throughout the day.
The building provides approximately 8,000m2 of internal space distributed between the two inverted pyramid elements. The main pedestrian approach takes the visitor into the progressively more confined space between the two stone-clad hull-like forms to reveal a clear view of the river through a triangular gap, much like a natural rock arch. The entrance leads into a double-height foyer space, lit from above by small roof-lights and with a number of small slit-like windows cut into the walls. There is also a waterside cafe and shop together with a multi-purpose area that can be adapted to accommodate shows or concerts.
The first-floor accommodation, linking the two building elements, contains a lounge area and four display galleries. Apart from a regular diet of exhibitions, here it is intended to house Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s restored Oak Room (designed for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street tea rooms in 1907, it was subsequently saved and has been held in storage, dismantled, for half a century). There is also an auditorium, a creative learning centre, and staff and back-up facilities. The main galleries at the upper level are linked by bridges and the inclusion of some more open glazed areas, as well as the little slot windows, help to maintain a visual connection with the city and surrounding landscape.
As with many such ambitious projects, final costs (at £80m) came in well above the original estimates, but the client, Dundee Design Limited, an amalgam of Dundee City Council, Scottish Enterprise, Abertay University, the University of Dundee and the V&A Museum, is to be congratulated on seeing the project through to completion. Construction work was completed in January 2018 and the building was handed over to the V&A for the fitting out of the galleries, including a first major exhibition on the subject of ‘Ocean Liners: Speed and Style’, ready for a public opening on 15 September 2018.
WESTON TOWER AND TRIFORIUM GALLERY, WESTMINSTER ABBEY, LONDON
Architect: Ptolemy Dean Architects (Weston Tower)
Architect/Exhibition designer: MUMA (Triforium Gallery)
The chance to make a significant addition to such an important national icon as the 1,000-year-old Grade I listed Westminster Abbey could justifiably be regarded as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a daunting undertaking for any architect. However, the current Surveyor of the Fabric of the Abbey, Ptolemy Dean, has risen to the challenge with a beautifully crafted and sensitively designed insertion that provides access to the hitherto unexploited attic spaces of the triforium that wrap around the upper levels of the chancel apse at the east end. These have now been transformed by the gallery designer MUMA into a complex sequence of interlinked spaces displaying a selection of the abbey’s fascinating collection of historical artefacts. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, as they are titled, a £23m project overall, opened to the public on 11 June 2018.
The new tower, approximately 27m in height, has been eased into a tight corner between the Chapter House, the apse and the eastern front of the south transept, rising snugly behind the stone flying buttress to the Chapter House inserted by Gilbert Scott in the 19th century. Accessed from a doorway in Poets’ Corner, inside the abbey, the Weston Tower (named after the tower’s principal benefactor, the Garfield Weston Foundation) is the first significant external addition to the abbey’s fabric since the completion of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s western towers in 1745. It contains a central lift shaft around which winds a generous oak staircase. Throughout its height, close-up views of the surrounding medieval architecture are obtained through a decorative glazed screen comprising hundreds of small rectangular leaded panes. From the topmost level of the tower, some six storeys above ground level, entry to the galleries is made via an internal bridge whose windows are enlivened by thousands of fragments of medieval stained glass that were unearthed from the rubble below the old floor before work started and the new floor was put in.
The central lift shaft is constructed of concrete and faced with stone, and is the primary support element for the tower, its mass concrete foundation bedded on the Thorney Island gravel nearly 3m down, as were the abbey’s original walls. Its square profile on plan is reflected in the outer glazed screen, but here elaborated using two squares overlaid and rotated to create a star-shaped octagon, a motif that appears elsewhere in the abbey. The external glazed screen follows this outline. In seeking to make the supporting mullions and transoms as slender as possible, the structural frame has been suspended from a radiating arrangement of steel beams placed across the top of the lift shaft. From this structural ‘top hat’, the loads of the glazed panels are transferred onto vertical suspended steel channels placed at the internal and external apex points of the octagonal plan. Using the steel framing in tension, rather than compression, has enabled the screen structure to achieve minimal visual impact and maximise the area of glass. The delicate glazed infills comprise hundreds of individual rectangular leaded clear-glass panes that break down the reflections and create an intimate, almost domestic, scale.
Alternate supporting piers are faced with decorative patterned leadwork, featuring narrow strips shaped and laid to create a rising pattern of chevrons contained within sections defined by roll-moulded edges. The lead-cased support piers continue above the topmost glazing to create a faceted solid balustrade around the top of the lift shaft, which is crowned by a short octagonal steeple, also clad in lead, an appropriate termination to the formal composition reflected in the piers and capstones of the abbey’s gothic elevations. The evident precision of all this work demonstrates, as one might expect in this special context, a level of commitment and immaculate attention to detail coupled with workmanship of the highest order. A further decorative touch has been added in the form of intertwining bands of metal tracery, winding up the outside of each facet of the glazed envelope in a series of leaf-like shapes – a light-hearted softening of the otherwise orthogonal geometry.
The cladding to the lift shaft provides an interesting visual history lesson in the abbey’s use of natural stone over the centuries and features layers of all the different types of stone used. Akin to the strata of an exposed cliff face, though far smoother of course, it starts at the base with Purbeck marble and clunch (11th century). Then follows Caen, Reigate and Purbeck grub (12th century), magnesium limestone (15th century), Burford (17th century), Portland (18th century), Kilkenny marble, Ashburton, Chilmark, Cornish granite (19th century), and finally Portland whitbed, Portland basebed and Clipsham limestone (20th century).
The spaces within the triforium, created when Sir Christopher Wren replaced the then-decaying original roof with a flat one and inserted a floor above the gothic vaults spanning the aisles below, have been artfully converted into a wonderful new gallery, lit by the medieval stone traceried windows set into the bulbous protrusions of the east end as well as offering clear views internally down into the body of the nave. The stunning view now afforded from the central point of the gallery back down the nave once inspired Sir John Betjeman to describe the vista as ‘the best in Europe’.
Careful control of daylight and the precise placing of display cases followed a painstaking study of sunlight and shadow patterns cast throughout the year, in order to provide maximum protection for the sometimes fragile and light sensitive treasures on display. The angled struts supporting Wren’s roof structure remain visible within the gallery and provide a further level of complexity to the sub-division of space, linking the exposed timber roof beams to the smooth new oak flooring.
Deference to the decorative complexity of the new tower’s context has been the driving force in the overall design concept, the detailing and subsequent craftsmanship of an unusual but ultimately successful exercise in ‘contemporary Gothic’. Its general visual ‘busyness’ and natural human scale enables it to blend seamlessly into the architectural tour de force that is Westminster Abbey in a way that a more craven pursuit of total modernity would arguably be unlikely to have achieved. As the architect himself has expressed it: ‘sometimes more really is less’.
ROYAL BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATOIRE, JENNENS ROAD, BIRMINGHAM
Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, one of the country’s leading music teaching colleges, has moved from its previous location in Birmingham’s Paradise Circus to this new site in the Eastside ‘Learning Quarter’ of Birmingham City University’s campus, where a state-of-the-art purpose-built facility for musical teaching and performance has been completed. Developed by Birmingham City University under the leadership of renowned cellist and conductor Julian Lloyd Webber, the conservatoire features five varied performance spaces alongside some 70 practice studios and ensemble rooms for the college’s 600 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as administrative and support facilities including a foyer bar and cafe.
The major performance space is the main concert hall, capable of accommodating an audience of nearly 500 and an orchestra of 120 players in a traditional format. There is also a 150-seat recital hall, designed as a flexible space with retractable seating; an experimental black box ‘lab’ space; a specially designed 100-seat organ studio and recital room; and the Eastside Jazz Club (this innovation being a first for any conservatoire). The club, naturally enough, has been tucked away at low level and given a ‘basement’ feel to recreate the typical atmosphere of a city centre jazz venue.
The site is an uncompromising one and with the incessant traffic noise generated by Jennens Road, the dual carriageway city approach running alongside, not one best suited to the acoustic demands of musical performance, study and rehearsal. The architect has responded with a robust architectural treatment involving largely blank brick walls relieved by minimal punched window openings. This conservative treatment almost entirely wraps the building, which consequently reads as a single urban block, tight up to its site boundaries, with angled facades and faceted inflections emphasising its defensive nature, protective of internal delights and subtleties.
Approaching the site from the north, one encounters a sharply angled ‘prow’ rising some 25m above the pavement. This cutting edge marks the junction between the northern edge of the campus, the ‘city’ side, and the start of a pedestrian route leading down into the park at the centre of the campus. The building is cut into the slope of the site and the landscaped pedestrian route descends by a storey to the main ground level where, turning the corner, it runs past the new main entrance, one of the few points where the brickwork gives way to a generous expanse of glazing that provides daylight to the foyer spaces.
The foyer rises through three levels and is the organisational hub of the building, spacious and visually interesting with its stairs and balconies wrapping round the tall sunlit space. A wide staircase leads up to the first floor, at which point the internal planning becomes clear. Ahead there is the alternative ‘main’ entrance from the Jennens Road ‘city’ side, completing a through route across the building which is open to the public and can be used as a shortcut. To left and right, creating an axis along the length of the building, runs the primary central circulation spine (a feature repeated on all upper floors). The spine performs a key function in separating the principal performance spaces from the noise of the dual carriageway, allowing the practice and rehearsal rooms to be placed along the north side to act as an acoustic barrier and shield the performance spaces along the south side. The foyer extends into a bar and cafe area at ground level, from where access is also available to the recital hall, the experimental lab and the jazz club, all three spaces rising through the ground and first-floor levels. Timber finishes predominate, with walls and ceilings lined with timber fins, which form part of an acoustic treatment that can enable the potentially busy public space to cater for occasional musical offerings.
The main concert hall, located immediately above the recital hall and lab, follows the traditional ‘shoe-box’ layout, thus occupying a large rectangular volume, and is supported on an independent steel structure to create a ‘box within a box’ and provide complete acoustic isolation. Accessed from the upper foyer balcony, the interior again features extensive timber acoustic panelling in warm honey-brown tones. The stage is sized to permit full-scale performances by symphony orchestras, so the 500-seat capacity is relatively small by conventional standards and will no doubt offer a full-on experience for the audience. The hall is a model of restrained design, with ribbed plywood panelling in warm natural tones forming a plinth extending around the base of the walls and giving way at upper levels to tall panels of varying widths with dark brown folded infill panels canting forward and back between slender timber fins. Above the platform, an array of curved plywood panels houses down-lighters and provides additional acoustic control.
The acoustic performance is the key driver of the final visual appearance in all the performance spaces, with various forms of faceting, ribbing, rippling and perforation in the mainly timber finishes used to modulate wall and ceiling surfaces to achieve the required levels of absorption, diffusion or reverberation. The largely introspective nature of the conservatoire is the main reason for the lack of significant fenestration with which to leaven the principal elevations, and the consequent blankness and solidity of the relatively simple brick facades has necessitated some decorative interventions in the brickwork detailing to provide a degree of articulation and texture and so soften the ‘urban castle’ aesthetic.
Along the Jennens Road frontage, repeated vertical lines created by projecting perpends of alternate courses pick up the edges of the windows to the teaching and practice rooms, expanding at the topmost level into larger rectangular panels, textured in the same way with projecting bricks. Rising above a darker brick plinth band, the soft buff brick facade thus acquires a regular quasi-structural rhythm along its length, though this is in fact unrelated to the internal structural frame.
A similar treatment extends into the campus side of the building, with subtle changes in the treatment of the top levels helping to articulate component elements of the massing. The overall effect is of a sober solidity that might in some quarters be regarded as a bit grim, but the effects are subtle and neatly detailed, resisting the temptation to brashness that could have been deemed appropriate for a ‘gateway’ building. Construction of the £57m project commenced in 2015 and the college opened its doors to its first students in September 2017. Its sophisticated interiors and state-of-the-art acoustics will no doubt serve them well and do much to boost the already flourishing cultural life of Birmingham.
THE MACALLAN DISTILLERY, SPEYSIDE, SCOTLAND
Architect: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP)
Whisky has been produced at Macallan’s Speyside estate distillery since 1824, with its fine single malt long established as one of Scotland’s leading brands. Malt whisky as a product has always been intimately linked with the landscape within which it is created and the 150-hectare Macallan site, along with the 18th-century Easter Elchies House, sits within a designated ‘Area of Great Landscape Value’. Following the contemporary trend for superbly designed wineries, as have recently been completed at a number of vineyards in France and Spain, the owners of Macallan sought to introduce high-quality architectural design into the development of their own manufacturing facilities.
To this end, in 2012 a competition was organised with a few invited participants. This was won by RSHP with a design that took much inspiration from the surrounding landscape in an attempt to minimise its visual impact and protect views, while still providing a highly efficient and state-of-the-art production unit with the potential to expand in the future if required. The new combined distillery and visitor centre has been cut into the landscape such that roughly half the building is hidden from most viewpoints. The upper parts are surmounted by an undulating green roof featuring five dome-like grassy mounds, suggestive perhaps of a series of ancient tumuli, sloping gently down towards a chunky undulating fascia that overhangs a continuous glazed screen, recessed behind the inclined struts of the steel-framed supporting structure.
While the competition brief called for separate facilities for the distillery and visitor centre, the architect instead chose to combine the two functions, thus opening up the whole production process to the visitor experience. In a further innovation, the layout of the various elements involved in whisky production has been rethought, with the introduction of ‘still houses’ or individual complete ‘cells of production’, combining fermentation and distillation vessels in a circular layout, repeatable on a modular basis as a number of pods.
The five undulating mounds reflect the linear layout of the production units below, with pod 1 containing the ‘mash house’ and pods 2, 3 and 4 containing the modular ‘still house’ units, each centred under one of the four identical grassy domes. The fifth dome rises higher than the others and marks the location of the visitor centre, which is placed at the end nearest to the estate house. From the house an angled pathway, lined with a high retaining wall clad in black polished concrete, leads directly into the lower level of the visitor centre, passing beneath the lie of the land in a tunnel for the final few yards.
The roof form is a direct reflection of the circular production pods on plan and the grassy mounds in section – the mounds are not built up with soil but are a planted skin following the structural profile. The roof is fully expressed internally and takes the form of a continuous glulam and laminated veneered lumber grid-shell, the undulating ribs visible from one end of the building to the other. As is evident from the outside, the grid-shell structure is raised to a higher level over the visitor centre. The curved top surface of the shell is covered with a final skin comprising thermal insulation and a finishing layer of irrigated growing medium with a pre-grown Scottish wildflower meadow blanket.
Curving and interleaving through the downstand ribs of the grid-shell, dark grey tubular steel structural members pick up the loads of the roof, thence to be transferred via sets of triangulated inclined struts or ‘trees’ down to ground level. The inclined struts are visible around the perimeter where the loads are transferred directly from the roof edge beam down to solid construction.
The one vertical intervention in the length of the new building is a full-height glazed screen installed to separate the visitor centre from the production pods. This performs as a two-hour fire compartment wall (a requirement given the assessed fire risk from the whisky-making process) and was achieved with the use of double-glazed heat-soaked toughened laminated glass units set within a ground slab bearing intumescent coated steel frame and protected on each side by a drencher system. Being fully clear-glazed, its presence does nothing to inhibit the internal views or minimise the impact of the impressive circular arrays of steel tanks, contrasting with the burnished tones of the handmade copper pot stills raised on high in the centre of each pod.
The visitor centre section retains the circular motif in its planning, with a central drum clad in local granite enclosing winding stairs leading up from the entry level to the main viewing level, from where walkways lead down each side of the central space containing the production pods.
Completed in May 2018, the visitor centre is considered capable of receiving 17,000 people a year, while the layout of production units should render future expansion of the distillery operation relatively simple, though having in the process enabled production to be increased fourfold this is not thought to be likely in the short term. There is no doubt that this superb building sets a new benchmark for the whisky industry, displaying an assured feeling for context and traditional materials without unnecessary showmanship, and one that should attract many more visitors to this beautiful part of Scotland.

Chapters

Architecture
Word count: 366