FOCUS ON INDUSTRIAL ARCHITECTURE
Photo: Nicolas Delaroche
NO BUILDING TYPE PLACES A GREATER EMPHASIS ON EFFICIENCY THAN AN INDUSTRIAL BUILDING. THE COST MUST BE KEPT DOWN, THE CONSTRUCTION MUST BE SPEEDY AND THE BUILDING MUST BE CAPABLE OF RESPONDING SMOOTHLY TO INNOVATIONS AND CAPACITY CHANGES. EVERY ASPECT IS SUBJECT TO THE PRESSURES OF COST CONTAINMENT. THE GOAL IS TO CURB THE MARKET PRICE AND TO ASSURE COMPETITIVENESS.
Logically, the architecture of a production facility generally loses out, and the bearing it has on the surroundings receives only limited attention. Industrial buildings seem to be at odds with architecture. The consequence is that the results tend to be unsightly or at least “neutral” in design, and to clash ruthlessly with the surroundings. That industrial buildings also possess a public component, in the sense that they are sited in a locale that belongs to everyone, is often overlooked.
There are nonetheless many clients who appreciate the necessity of well designed industrial buildings, and make an effort to have their ideas realized in architecture. That is plainly justified: they set an example that merits emulation. The architecture of industrial buildings ought to be taken more seriously. After all, industry has long been banished from the city to the periphery where it is practically hidden away as though alien to our way of living, but it is anything but reduced to a marginal phenomenon. Industrial buildings and business sites have become a significant part of our living environment, and many people spend their working days there.
How an industrial building looks, how the interiors are designed and perhaps possess qualities such as stimulating contact among employees, how natural lighting, air quality and acoustics are optimized, and how the building relates to its surroundings, are matters of considerable importance.
Striking, well known instances from architectural history such as the Van Nelle Factory in Schiedam (Netherlands) designed by architect Leendert van der Vlugt together with structural engineer Jan Wiebenga, and the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin (USA) by Frank Lloyd Wright, have attracted little following however. Fortunately, there is now a growing concern for well designed industrial buildings which do take full account of the working climate and specific qualities of the surroundings. The projects of the Swiss firm Kunik de Morsier, of Nischizawa Architects in Vietnam, and of Henning Larsen in Danmark, provide convincing evidence.
WATCH MANUFACTURER AUDEMARS PIGUET LE LOCLE, SWITZERLAND
Watches do more than measure time; they also symbolize it. In the timepiece factory of Audemars Piguet, designed by the Swiss architecture firm Kunik de Morsier, the phenomenon of time manifests itself in various guises. There is the extreme precision of time ticking away by the superb watches made there. Then there is the production time of the watches and the daily working schedules of the employees. There is the orbital time of Earth, and the transition from day to night, and night to day. And there is the geological time that seems congealed into the folded strata of the French Jura.
These diverse times, ranging from seconds to aeons, are made tangible in the architectural design of Kunik de Morsier. To start with we may sense the longest kind of time, that of aeons, in the building’s wings that spread out at varying angles into the landscape and thereby acutely epitomize its geology: the utter slowness but overwhelming folding of mountain ranges. Seen from above, the orientation of the wings hints at the manic hands of a clock run wild, reaching out to various points along the trajectory of the sun.
Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Iwan Baan
Photo: Nicolas Delaroche
As an employee going from one wing to another, you will find the sun peering in from different angles in each place, making you more sharply aware of the passing day.
Each wing of the building houses a stage of the manufacturing process. The wings are all at the same level, so that some sections have to be supported on stilts across the undulating ground. Despite the articulations of the building interior, the result is a fluid space where employees can walk from place to place for mutual consultation about their high-precision work. The time spent in production similarly seems to spread out evenly over the entire plan.
Particular care is paid to the optimal distribution of natural daylight, which is always preferred for the fabrication of watches. Where the wings converge at the centre of the building, there is a well-lit open space for informal meetings, workshops and interdisciplinary consultations. That focus, so to speak, is where time stands momentarily still.
ARCHITECT: KUNIK DE MORSIER
KATZDEN ARCHITEC FACTORY BINH DUONG, VIETNAM
A limited budget, as is usual for industrial buildings; the requirement for a large degree of flexibility, making a simple box shape unavoidable; an industrial site that, despite the complete anonymity of the other buildings, has to project a distinct identity; an indoor climate that must be as comfortable as possible regardless of the tropical heat and humidity: the Vietnamese firm of Nishizawa Architects shows how to disentangle the Gordian knot for the factory Katzden Architec Vietnam in Binh Duong.
Katzden Architec manufactures all kinds of architectural metal products such as staircases, railings, door handles and bicycle racks. Given the need for efficiency, a typical box shape for the new factory was almost inevitable. The aspiration was nonetheless to create an icon for the industrial zone, a building that would stand out. It was also important to relate to the basic architecture of the site and to avoid being too much out of tune with the other buildings. Nishizawa Architects succeeded in giving a distinct character to the design by using brick from nearby abandoned colonial buildings for the external walls. This was undeniably a statement. The process of decolonization spans many decades, and there is no better way of emphasizing autonomy and the growth of a robust economy than recycling materials from colonial buildings.
The wide, flat roof is elevated to float above the visual mass of brickwork. This simple design choice makes it obvious that the brick walls are not meant to serve a load-bearing function, but to wrap around the building like a fabric. The approach also provides adequate cross-ventilation – an absolute necessity in the tropics, particularly to avoid being entirely dependent on expensive, environmentally adverse air conditioning.
The roof edges project by three metres, thereby shading direct sunlight and sheltering against periodic downpours. Besides contributing to cross-ventilation and natural daylighting, the tropical plants in the enclosed yard form a green oasis. It is an ideal spot for those who work in the building to chill out and feel at ease with their native flora and homeland.
ARCHITECT: NISHIZAWA ARCHITECTS
Photos: Hiroyuki Oki
SOLRØDGÅRD WATER TREATMENT PLANT HILLERØD, DENMARK
That industrial buildings often stand brutally in the landscape may be true, but the exact opposite is the case for the Solrødgård Water Treatment Plant. This plant merges so well with the slightly undulating Danish landscape that it is nearly invisible. The building is just the gentlest slope amidst other gentle slopes, with its green roof just as green. What is taken from the landscape, is given back in one and the same move.
Only when walking on the roof or in the landscaped corridor that cuts as a chasm right through the building, can one understand that it contains a facility for water recycling and wastewater treatment. One can peer through skylights on the roof and the glass facades of the corridor into the plant’s processing wing and filtration facilities, watching as the plant treats 15,000 cubic meters of wastewater a day.
The Solrødgård Climate and Environment Park, serving the city of Hillerød in northern Zealand, seeks to shine a brighter spotlight on the global challenge of sustainable resource use. The park aims to initiate a dialogue on resource use and climate awareness by creating public appeal within a municipal infrastructure. The Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen contributed to the park with design and landscaping for the Solrødgård Water Treatment Plant. Here, the plant and its offices stand alongside walking trails, a bird-watching tower, and a roosting hotel for local bats. By weaving recreational space into public utilities, the park creates a unique space where visitors can gain a first-hand exposure to the cycle of natural resources within the community.
A creek trickles through the central channel, passing through a narrow garden that shows how foliage cleans and filters groundwater. For visitors, this organic installation serves as a subtle but at the same time strong, meaningful contrast to the water treatment plant, prompting reflection on the function and environmental footprint of the public utility.
ARCHITECT: HENNING LARSEN