2.9. The current scene, a new era?

We have come a long way since the first forays into mill building; mock Palladian mansions have turned into signature architectural icons or bland sheds. The story as far as this essay is concerned lies around structure and physical aspects of factories. There has been fleeting mentions of working practices; social, representational, and political issues are left for another work.

The story has been one of innovation, in materials and technologies, adaptation, of buildings and processes, and reaction to changing architectural styles and influences. Factories have been glittering show pieces, secreted away into the landscape, or just taken for granted as rows of uniform boxes within the local trading estate.

We have also witnessed dereliction, of individual buildings, and complete areas as political, market, or individual business demands change. Posterity shall mourn some, such as Firestone, Brynmawr or Reliance factories; others have a welcome departure from the lives of people who were fated to exist as virtual machines within their walls or lived near their ugly countenance.

Some have learnt to adapt, their basic forms being suitable to a whole range of industrial uses, others, including the giant Lister mills at Bradford[i], have gained a reprieve from destruction, by becoming part of the trend for regeneration and conversion to other uses such as housing, commercial or office space. Others, such as the Magna ex-steel works at Rotherham[ii] (figure 2.54) or the Iron Bridge gorge museum, Shropshire, have become part of the heritage and education industry itself, teaching the latest generations how their fore fathers lived and worked.

Industrial architecture so often the Cinderella of architectural theory writings maybe deserves a closer look. What can we say about the cladded sheds or boxes that we experience on a daily basis; those “inscrutable envelopes of human activity”[iii] as Gillian Darley states. Although whether icon or humble, they all have a story, a feature, an effect upon us in some way.  Tom Dyckhof of the Times has recently discussed newly completed BMW car factory in Leipzig (2005)[iv] (figure 2.55) along with mentions of other earlier factories such as Ford’s Kahn designed works, The AEG building and others such as Roger’s efforts in Swindon.

In the article he mused of the times when people romanticised about mass production, “when the production line was fantasised about as a thing of beauty and liberation, not oppression”, and when the “sight of a well-oiled machine could wring a tear from the eye of the grandest of industrial magnates”. Maybe this iconic factory by Zaha Hadid[v] has finally taken Cinderella to the ball.

[i]Lister Mills dominates the Bradford skyline. It is a glorious reminder of Bradford’s Victorian past and its once legendary industrial prowess. When built The Times proclaimed that the Mills were as “breathtaking as Versailles” – to this day it still manages to take your breath away.” Press release by Urban Splash, property developers who have redeveloped Lister Mills. URBAN SPLASH

[ii] Magna Science and education centre, more details here, Magna Science Adventure Centre

[iii] Gillian Darley, Factory, London, 2002, page7.

[iv] Tom Dyckhof, “Talking about a revolution”, Times T2 magazine, 14,06,2005, pp10-11.

 [v] Zaha Hadid. The first woman to win the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in its 26 year history, has defined a radically new approach to architecture by creating buildings, such as the Rosenthal Centre for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, with multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry to evoke the chaos of modern life. Zaha Hadid / Zaha Hadid Architecture and Design : Architect (1950-) – Design/Designer Information

2.8. End of a century and the Millennium

Moving towards the 21st century, there have been a number of “signature” buildings with overt exterior architectural features following on from the Renault building.  The Vitra[i] building by Frank Gehry[ii] 9 Figure 2.48) started in 1987 as a factory but now a museum displays its disjointed elements as floating blocks, the Igus factory (1992)[iii],(figure 2.49) a slick shed with its demountable office pods and ventilation domes sitting under the two large yellow painted masts as the factory itself lies apparently suspended below. We should also note the Motorola factory, Swindon, (1998)[iv], (figure 2.50), with its cigar shaped roof covering an internal “street” where staff can socialise, infamous for its part in one of the James Bond movies, and also an extreme showpiece such as the Volkswagen “transparent factory” in Dresden (1999-2000)[v].

Other recent factories have taken the route of blending into the surroundings. James Dyson’s[vi]  now defunct Malmesbury vacuum cleaner plant (1998) (figure 2.51), takes a more self-effacing stance, with its undulating roofline rippling through the landscape and its glass walls reflecting the landscape. When David Mellor[vii] built his cutlery factory near Sheffield, (figure 2.52) away from his trade’s traditional industrial setting, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, he used natural materials and trees to blend the conical shaped building in to its surroundings. Ercol[viii], the furniture firm use a similar woodland setting to hide their sliver of a building, and when Nicolas Grimshaw[ix] (ex “Eden”[x] project) chose the site for the new BMW owned Rolls Royce[xi] plant, (figure 2.53) he planted it in old gravel workings, set low, almost invisible with its “living green” roof from the surrounding Downs countryside. The recent Adnams Brewery[xii] distribution centre snuggles just on the outskirts of Southwold in Suffolk, again sporting a natural living roof

Although we could look at the emerging new materials, resins, fibres, metals and plastics, some sandwiched together to insulate, seal, and increase strength, they are for now just adaptations of what has been, their worth is yet to be evaluated. The real innovations are now on the shop floor, with robotics emptying the workspace of people, and the deployment of modern ergonomics and special planning.

Where humans are still part of the process, innovations are shown with the introduction of theory that workers are not there just to perform tasks as part of a well-oiled machine, but are part of a larger integrated social structure. Ideas such as “group technology” where teams of workers take control of processes to help control the boredom of the production line.[xiii] Flexibility is the new mantra and the ability of the workforce to adapt for change could be just as important as merely having a flexible building structure.

[i] Vitra Design company statement, “Vitra designs the places where people work – be in the office, at home, or on the road. The goal: to make the place of work as appealing, productive and healthy as possible. Our furniture is to be found in countless successful companies and organizations, as well as in the homes of many private individuals with a feel for design. Active internationally, we work together with the major designers of the day. For over 50 years now we have been manufacturing the furniture created by the famous US designers, Charles and Ray Eames.”vitra.com | Vitra the company

[ii]  Frank Gehry “(b. Toronto, Ontario, Canada 1929) Frank Gehry was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1929. He studied at the Universities of Southern California and Harvard, before he established his first practice, Frank O. Gehry and Associates in 1963. In 1979, this practice was succeeded by the firm Gehry & Krueger Inc. Over the years, Gehry has moved away from a conventional commercial practice to an artistically directed atelier. His deconstructed architectural style began to emerge in the late 1970s when Gehry, directed by a personal vision of architecture, created collage-like compositions out of found materials. Instead of creating buildings, Gehry creates ad-hoc pieces of functional sculpture. Gehry’s architecture has undergone a marked evolution from the plywood and corrugated-metal vernacular of his early works to the distorted but pristine concrete of his later works. However, the works retain a deconstructed aesthetic that fits well with the increasingly disjointed culture to which they belong. In the large-scale public commissions he has received since he converted to a deconstructive aesthetic, Gehry has explored the classical architecture themes. In these works, he melds formal compositions with an exploded aesthetic. Most recently, Gehry has combined sensuous curving forms with complex deconstructive massing, achieving significant new results.” Frank Gehry – Great Buildings Online

[iii] Igus, plastics technology company, Günter Blase began Igus® back in 1964 in a double garage in Cologne. For the first 20 years, the company worked as a supplier of complex technical polymer components. Between 1985 and 2006, Igus® has grown from 40 to more than 1,350 employees distributed between the head office in Germany and 26 subsidiary companies around the world. Igus® also has representative partners in more than 21 other countries. Igus® will continue to invest in expansion in the coming years, thanks to the opportunities for growth provided by modern materials. Igus

[iv] Architect Sheppard Robson,”An award winning architectural, planning, urban design and interior design practice which was established in 1938. With 250 people, including 14 partners, based in London and Manchester, “Architect Search: Sheppard Robson: Practice Profile

[v] Henn architects, “Prof. Dr. Gunter Henn (TU Dresden & Henn architects) Gunter Henn was born in 1947 in Dresden, Germany. He studied architecture and engineering in Munich, Berlin, and Zurich. He earned his doctorate at the Technical University, Munich. Since 1978, he has his own offices, Henn Architekten, in Munich and Berlin. He is currently a visiting professor at the MIT Sloan School of MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Professor at the Technical University in Dresden. He has been responsible for many innovative building designs, including the BMW Research and Innovation Centre, the Automobile City in Wolfsburg for Volkswagen, as well as the Transparent Factory in Dresden, a novel auto-assembly plant for Skoda in the Czech Republic and the Faculty for Mechanical Engineering for the Technical University in Munich.” Speakers

[vi] Sir James Dyson (born Cromer, Norfolk, England, 2 May 1947) is a British designer. He is best known as the inventor of the Dual Cyclone bag less vacuum cleaner, which works on the principle of cyclonic separation. His net worth is said to be just over £1 billion James Dyson –

[vii] David Mellor, “David Mellor Cutlery is manufactured in a purpose-designed modern factory in the Peak National Park. The Round Building, designed by Sir Michael Hopkins, has won numerous architectural awards. The David Mellor shop in Sloane Square, London, and the factory at Hathersage in Derbyshire, sells a professional collection of kitchenware and tableware.” David Mellor Cutlery and Kitchenware

[viii] Ercol company heritage statement, “In 1920 a young designer called Lucian Ercolani started his own business in High Wycombe, the chair making capital of England. Here he perfected the technique of steam-bending wood in large quantities to form the famous Windsor Bow, and discovered how to ‘tame’ elm; a beautifully grained hardwood other furniture makers considered impossible to work with.” Ercol – The Company

[ix]Grimshaw, Nicholas, Thomas English architect. His work has developed along distinctly “high tech” lines, for example his Financial Times printing works, London (1988), an uncompromisingly industrial building that exposes machinery to view through a glass outer wall. Later works include the Continental Train Platform at Waterloo Station, London (1993), the Ecological Centre Project (home of the Eden Project) at St Austell, Cornwall (2001), and Folly Bridge in Oxford (2002). Grimshaw’s British Pavilion for Expo ’92 in Seville, created in similar vein to his Financial Times printing works, and addressed problems of climatic control, incorporating a huge wall of water in its facade and sail-like mechanisms on the roof.” Grimshaw, Nicholas Thomas

[x]The Eden Project is one of the UK’s top Landmark Millennium projects created to tell the fascinating story of man’s relationship with plants.  It  is  a non-profit  making  charitable  scientific organisation for the 21st century with a commitment to communicate with  the  public through entertainment,  education and involvement” press release by Eden Project – About

[xi] Rolls Royce plant text and pictures at,  BBC NEWS | Business | Rolls-Royce: Technology and craftsmanship

[xii] Adnams brewery. Located in Southwold Suffolk. The distribution centre lies just outside this sea side town.

 [xiii] Nissan, the Japanese car makers, introduced group working into their factory in Sunderland.

2.7. The “Cool” box, the “functional tradition” and the arrival of “High tech”.

In 1951, Francis Wylie in his published talk entitled “Industrial buildings” stated, “factory building is no longer the Cinderella of the drawing office, it has become industrial architecture. In 1952 two such designed buildings were widely publicised, the handkerchief mill in Blumberg Germany, by Egon Eiermann[i], (figure 2.32) and the Dynamometer building at the General Motors research building in Detroit by Eero Saarinen[ii] (figure 2.33). Both displayed an exposed black painted steel frame with high levels of glazing, their streamlined aesthetic derived from the work of Mies van der Rohe[iii].

 In the USA, the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill took up this new “cool box” style and demonstrated it with several buildings[iv] in the 1950s including a building for H. J .Heinz[v] &Co Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (figure 2.34) where they used the exposed black steel frame glazed with blue glass framed in aluminium.

This style arrived in Britain with the Processing building for Cooper Taber at Witham, Essex (1955) [vi](figure 2.35). This building too had an exposed steel frame painted black, slender in appearance, with all other space apart from the services on the roof taken up with glass. This exposed, and possibly celebrated the machinery seen within. Was this the natural descendant of the Sheerness boathouse with its early-unrecognised exposure of the structural frame?

This generation of factory buildings and later ones benefited from the cross pollination of technologies from other industries. They could achieve this high level of glazing using new sealants derived from the car industry, and for the frames , the use of corrosion resistant “Cor Ten“[vii] steel developed for  railway freight wagons and heavy plant machinery.  Further developments in reflective glazing and pre-cast concrete elements proved useful for 1960s buildings, and the advances in aluminium cladding profiled steel sections and plastic sealants encouraged these “boxes” to become even lighter.

In 1958, James Richards published “The Functional tradition”[viii]. In it, he expressed the fact that the prototype buildings of the nineteenth century had also prepared modern taste for their successors. He celebrated the efforts of the “pioneer efforts of the engineers” and the more orthodox builders of that time who served the needs of the trades and businesses. Now seeking consolidation after innovation, he felt that the latest generation of architects might aim at “such a vernacular” by perhaps emphasising the functional precedents.

This intended new vernacular turned out to be mainly imported, mostly from the USA. The “Architects’ journal” described them as “prestige pancakes”. These elegant sleek buildings, usually based on the Saarinen ideal were set in green field sites, usually landscaped, as in his original General Motors model. Often the companies were American as in the Cummins Diesel engine Company[ix] who commissioned one of these sleek boxes in Darlington, Co. Durham (1966), (figure 2.36). Architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkledoo, inheritors of the Saarinen practice used a blend of Cor-ten steel and neoprene[x] gaskets (the first time in the world) to create this sleek single storey highly glazed “pancake”. It sat amongst landscaped grounds, and internally physical demarcations were dissolved between factory floor and offices, a pioneering change for British industry. The factory had gone full circle, from country mill, to town and city factory and back to countryside again.

Contemporary with Cummins, building features such as masts, cables, bracing and exposed air-conditioning plant, often painted in bright colours became apparent. This style was to become known as “High tech”. Some architect-designed industrial buildings lent themselves to “architectural engineering”, i.e. structural elements being used more for effect rather than reality. The Reliance Controls building Swindon (1965)[xi] was such a factory (figure 2.37). Designed by Norman Foster’s “Team 4”[xii] architect practice, it was a cheap and flexible “shed” for an American electronics company. It was noted by its exposed crisp cross bracing between the bays of the external steel frame, which sat in front of corrugated cladding or glazing panels. The architects admitted it was “just for visual effect only”.

The late 1960s in Britain also saw two other factories of note. The first one designed by Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardell partnership, (of Sigmund pumps, 1948), was the new factory for The Bath Cabinetmakers Company [xiii](1968) (figure 2.38) in the south west of England. Here they exploited a lightweight tubular steel space frame[xiv] to support the roof, enabling long spans and free floor space without heavy steel members. The other building, also in Bath was a new factory for Rotark controls (1968)[xv] (figure 2.39). Here again use of the space frame enabled uncluttered floor space, but it was taken a step further by being carried through at roof level to give form to the exterior. The inclusion of glazing around the edge gave subtle lighting to the interior (figure 2.40) .The other point of note is that the entire roof frame was at first assembled on the floor and then lifted up into position.

In the 1980s, factories that took the notion of exposed structural members, both for visual and practical effect to further heights include. Firstly, Richard Rogers Fleetguard manufacturing centre at Quimper, Brittany (1979-81) for the Cummins Diesel Company where external masts and bracing rods .painted in bright red, created a structure free interior and gave the image of the structure almost holding the build up in mid air (figure 2.41).

Also by Rogers, the Renault depot at Swindon (1983) (figure 2.42) displayed overt Meccano like external structural members painted in vivid yellow, its cabling and pierced metal web acting out the form of a tent.

In the early 1970s and 1980s, clean lines and lightweight cladding materials became the usual face of industry. Earlier “cool box” examples expressing the face of corporate modernity were the IBM assembly plant (figure 2.43) and the Horizon (John Player) factory; both by Arup associates[xvi] (figure 2.44).  This model became the norm for many industrial estates and business parks.

By now, the sophisticated “shed “was becoming a standardised item. The architects, Michael Hopkins and partners were commissioned to draw up a prototype small factory unit, named “Paterae” (figure 2.44), a steel framed box with standard glazing that potentially could be bought “of the shelf “straight from the assembly line like a car. The Automobile industry that had spawned the dawn of standard factories could now be housed in units that were created like their own product.

Gillian Darley states in her book “factory”[xvii], “By the 1980s Design magazine considered that the innovatory period of the sixties and seventies is coming to an end. Today kits of parts buildings designed by one time young lions …are, if not commonplace, certainly part of current conventional wisdom.” The attraction of an easy building formula meant that as Darley states “legions of disciples have adopted the same approach, not always with happy results.” Was it on the one hand becoming an architectural cliché or a popular modern vernacular? We should have to look to the ranks of industrial estates and business parks around the country to formulate our own opinion.

[i] ‘” Egon Eiermann” (born September 29th Neuendorf Germany, died July 20 1970) was one of Germany’s most prominent architects in the second half of the 20th century. Eiermann studied at the Technical University of Berlin. He worked for the Karlstad building department for a time, and before World War II had an office with fellow architect Fritz Jaenecke. He joined the faculty of the university in Karlsruhe in 1947, working there on developing steel frame construction methods. A functionalist, his major works include: the textile mill at Blumberg (1951); the West German pavilion at the Brussels World Exhibition (with Sep Ruf, 1958); the West German embassy in (1958-1964); a building for the German Parliament (Bundestag) in Bonn (1965-1969); the IBM-Germany Headquarters in Stuttgart (1967-1972); and, the Olivetti building in Frankfurt (1968-1972). By far his most famous work is the new church on the site of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin (1959-1963).In depth – Egon Eiermann

[ii] Eero Saarinen (b. Kirkkonummi, Finland 1910; d. Ann Arbor, Michigan 1961) Eero Saarinen was born in Kirkkonummi, Finland in 1910. He studied in Paris and at Yale University, after which he joined his father’s practice. Eero initially pursued sculpture as his art of choice. After a year in art school, he decided to become an architect instead. Much of his work shows a relation to sculpture. Saarinen developed a remarkable range which depended on colour, form and materials. Saarinen showed a marked dependence on innovative structures and sculptural forms, but not at the cost of pragmatic considerations. He easily moved back and forth between the International Style and Expressionism, utilizing a vocabulary of curves and cantilevered forms. Eero Saarinen died in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1961. Eero Saarinen – Great Buildings Online

[iii] Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (b. Aachen, Germany 1886; d. Chicago, Illinois 1969) Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe was born in Aachen, Germany in 1886. He worked in the family stone-carving business before he joined the office of Bruno Paul in Berlin. He entered the studio of Peter Behrens in 1908 and remained until 1912. Under Behrens’ influence, Mies developed a design approach based on advanced structural techniques and Prussian Classicism. He also developed sympathy for the aesthetic credos of both Russian Constructivism and the Dutch De Stijl group. He borrowed from the post and lintel construction of Karl Friedrich Schinkel for his designs in steel and glass. Mies worked with the magazine G which started in July 1923. He made major contributions to the architectural philosophies of the late 1920s and 1930s as artistic director of the Werkbund-sponsored Weissenhof project and as Director of the Bauhaus. Famous for his dictum ‘Less is More’, Mies attempted to create contemplative, neutral spaces through an architecture based on material honesty and structural integrity. Over the last twenty years of his life, Mies achieved his vision of a monumental ‘skin and bone’ architecture. His later works provide a fitting denouement to a life dedicated to the idea of a universal, simplified architecture Mies died in Chicago, Illinois in 1969. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – Great Buildings Online

[iv] Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM), “(Established Chicago 1936) Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings established an office in Chicago in 1936 and opened a branch in New York in 1937. The practice became Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) in 1939 when John Merrill joined the partnership. From the beginning, the firm stressed the importance of teamwork and individual responsibility among its employees. The firm’s early years were spent creating a multi-disciplinary office, which could effectively handle corporate and commercial clients. In 1952, Gordon Bunshaft pushed SOM toward a new level of architectural recognition with his design for the Lever House. This curtain-walled office block built in the International Style, demonstrated SOM’s capabilities and led to a series of similar developments. Due to the large scale of the buildings designed by SOM, structural innovation makes up a large part of the office’s design efforts. Skidmore Owings & Merrill operates as a successful large practice, with offices in many cities, although none of its original principals remain with the firm.” Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) – Great Buildings Online

[v] Henry John Heinz first opened Heinz in 1869, his first product was a horseradish packaged in a clear see though bottle. This was so that his customers could see that their horseradish was of good quality and standard. It was popular at the time for producers to use a filler so they got the most of their own horseradish i.e. leaves, wood fibre and turnip filler. Work and History of Companies

[vi] Architects, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon.

[vii] Cor-Ten Steel is a type of steel, which oxidizes naturally over time, giving it an orange-brown colour and a rough texture. It has a very high tensile strength, and in spite of its rusted appearance, it is actually more resistant to damaging corrosion than standard forms of carbon steel. Definition of the facade material Cor-Ten steel

[viii] In 1958 J M Richards published The Functional Tradition in Early Industrial Buildings. It was fully illustrated with Eric de Mare’s photographs (often cropped to focus on the relevant detail). Richards began his foreword: “This is primarily a picture book, and is, therefore, more Eric de Mare’s creation than mine”. The ‘functional tradition’ was defined by Richards and de Mare as that style of design which, though dominated by functional considerations, is remarkable for the wide range and subtlety of its aesthetic effects. It runs through all periods of English architecture, but comes out most strongly in the industrial architecture of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The purpose of Richards’ book was to educate readers to appreciate a range of buildings the architectural merits of which had not at that date been recognised, and also to illustrate a tradition of functional design in English architecture. De Mare was himself keen to demonstrate that functional design was not invented in the 1930s, and had a long and honourable history in English architecture. Although the tradition can be traced back into the medieval period, the book deliberately focused on the early industrial revolution.  image resource for England’s history. Story Introduction

[ix] The incorporation of Cummins Engine Company on February 3, 1919, brought together uncommon resources. William Glanton “W.G.” Irwin a successful Columbus banker-investor who supported several local entrepreneurs—supplied the starting capital. The new company’s namesake, Clessie Lyle Cummins, was a self-taught mechanic-inventor. The Irwins hired him in 1908 to drive and maintain their car, and later set him up in business as an auto mechanic. During World War I, Clessie operated a machine shop that thrived on government contracts. By then, he was convinced that an engine technology invented by Rudolph Diesel in the 1890s—while still unproven commercially—held great promise for its fuel economy and durability. To enter the business, Cummins secured manufacturing rights from a Dutch diesel licensor named Hvid. http://www.cummins.com/eu/pages/en/whoweare/cumminshistory.cfm

[x]  Neoprene: A synthetic material resembling rubber that does not perish as quickly as rubber and is more resistant to oil, used in the manufacture of equipment for which waterproofing is important.

MSN Encarta : Online Encyclopaedia, Dictionary, Atlas, and Homework

[xi] Reliance controls demolished 1991 (replaced by PC world) Rogers associates first entirely prefabricated building was the Reliance Controls Electronic Factory, Swindon, Wilts (1967), a simple rectangular building clad in steel decking with an elegantly detailed, cross-braced external steel structure. Richard Rogers: Biography and Much More from Answers.com

[xii] Norman Foster initially studied architecture at Manchester but it was winning a scholarship to Yale that provided the most decisive influences. One of his teachers was Paul Rudolph, an architect who found expressive power within a modernist language long after most of America had turned to Post Modernism. Like many other young British architects in the early 1960s, he came under the spell of the Case Study houses in Los Angeles, profound images of a relaxed modern lifestyle, achieved on relatively low budgets with common industrial materials, designed by architects like Charles and Rae Eames. He overlapped with another young Briton, Richard Rogers, with whom he would later found Team 4 . Norman Foster RA – Architects – Royal Academicians – Royal Academy of Arts

[xiii] Now owned by the Herman miller furniture group, Herman Miller – United States – Home Page

[xiv] Space frames:  are simply trusses or other elements deployed three-dimensionally. MSN Encarta – Architecture

[xv] Architects,  Leonard Manasseh and partners,

[xvi] Arup Associates (Arup b. Newcastle upon Tyne 1895; d. 1988) (Established 1963) Sir Ove Arup was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1895. Generally considered the foremost engineer of his era, he created the firm Arup and Partners in 1946 as a team of structural consultants. The complex level of design considerations that the partnership encountered led to the creation of Arup Associates in 1963. Arup Associates originally developed as a partnership between engineer Ove Arup and architect Philip Downson. It existed as a multi-disciplinary office that provided architectural, surveying, and engineering services. The firm’s overall success was mainly due to Ove Arup, who believed in practical architecture, in which design fulfils social and public needs. With Arup Associates and, later, with such research and design groups as the Modern Architecture Research Group (MARS) and the Tecton Group, Arup successfully broke the narrow confines of architecture as a single profession by creating a core organization of several specialties. Arup died in London in 1988. Arup Associates – Great Buildings Online

[xvii] Gillian Darley, Factory , London 2002, page 103

2.6 Clouds of war to regeneration

The autumn of 1939 witnessed the outbreak of the Second World War. As in the previous war, this affected the way industrial buildings were designed. At first buildings were rushed up everywhere to meet the demand of armaments and equipment supply. In the USA, some factories were built of great size such as the steel mills at Fontana, California to make steel for Liberty ships or the ford bomber plant at Willow run[i], in 1940 (figure 2.29). The U.S Navy commissioned Ernest Kump to build the monumental Ordnance and Optical shop in the San Francisco Naval base. Its slender steel frame allowed maximum use of glazing which flooded light in to the interior to aid the delicate operations within.

Many especially in the U.K factories were converted to differing uses, from cars to ambulances[ii], from textiles to mortar bombs[iii], their pre-war flexible designs allowing this change of operations. In The UK, demand for essential materials in the war effort encouraged the use of quickly constructed buildings, using lightweight steel structural elements, asbestos-cement cladding and with north light roofing, often “blacked out” or painted in camouflage. These corrugated asbestos-clad factories set the scene of many industrial estates for decades beyond.

In the USA by mid 1942, stocks of traditional materials had been exhausted by military demands. Economics and necessity meant that lightweight pre-stressed reinforced concrete and the new use of laminated timber for columns and roof structures came in to their own although at first nervously received by the builders. Newly developed resin glues and synthetic materials joined these materials in the goal of finding alternatives to traditional materials. In the USA, also, the blackout gave a boost to the “windowless factory” for a while as electrical lighting and improved ventilation alleviated problems potentially created in this environment.

In some of the wartime buildings quality was not a high priority, but post war standards began to rise and optimism encouraged some new design built factories. One notable example in the U.K is the Sigmund Pump Factory on the Team Valley estate, Gateshead (1948) (figure 2.30). The architects Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardell set out a horizontal emphasised building with a generously glazed office and works block, complete with Kahn style “monitor“[iv]glazing in the roof. Another notable building being the ill-fated[v] Brynmawr Rubber Factory (1951), South Wales, (figure 2.31). This was the brainchild of Lord Verulam, who wished to inject life into a depressed area by creating a building embodying the highest ideals and optimism. He employed a group of recently demobbed architects, “Architects Cooperative Partnership”, and Ove Arup[vi] as engineer to create a building roofed with nine thin shell reinforced concrete domes, leaving the main floor space completely uncluttered and illuminated by its elegant top light glazing set within the parabolic vaults.                           

In The USA post war surplus of capacity meant that some armaments factories were converted for the production of pre fabricated industrial buildings and housing, feeding on the now over supply of aluminium and steel. The firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), used their expertise in improved quality lightweight–steel sections to produce a prefabricated sophisticated exposed grid steel frame shed, which they started to export to Europe.

In mainland Europe, regenerating after the war, notable events include such projects as possibly Le Corbusier’s only foray into factory design. During 1945 in the war battered town of St. Die in the Vosges region of France, he rebuilt a mill for Jacques Duval. Corbusier stated “ Architecture is the correct magnificent play of forms under the light “ and he employed this dictum in the functional problems of a concrete framed five storey mill by the use of “Brise-soliel”[vii] , painted ceilings, a roof garden and  some of the  main production space put workers on a gallery.


[ii] Cars to ambulances, The firm of Charles H. Roe Ltd, at Cross Gates Carriage works in Austhorpe Road, converted the chassis of hundreds of private cars to ambulances and mobile canteens; private individuals in the city and abroad donating many of the cars to the war effort.

[iii] Textiles to Mortar barrels. A company that adapted its production lines for the war effort was Fairbairn, Lawson, Combe, Barbour Ltd. Leeds. Originally, a manufacturer of textile machinery, during the Second World War their predominantly female workforce made mortar barrels and other munitions at the Wellington Street Plant. VE Day 60 Years: Leeds – A Manufacturing City During Wartime – Leeds City Guide local history

[iv] Monitor Lighting Box style roof window light to give diffused illumination to floors below.

[v] Brynmawr Rubber factory demolished 2001. Designed between 1946 and 1951 by the Architects’ Co-Partnership and the engineer Ove Arup, the building was the vision of Lord James Forrester who propagated an idealistic concept, seeking to make a building of both social and architectural significance. The programme involved the regeneration of Brynmawr socially, economically and physically. Measures were taken to ensure the provision of a pleasant yet functional working environment for the local workforce who had suffered terribly following the collapse of the South Wales coal industry in the 1920s and 30s. Described as a ‘masterpiece of the modern age’ the design’s extraordinary structural solution incorporated innovative shell concrete construction first developed in Germany. The completed project featured in European and American journals and was visited by two of the greatest architects of the twentieth century: Le Corbusier was taken to see the project during a short stay in Britain and Frank Lloyd Wright made a special visit when he arrived in Wales on a tour of his ancestral homeland.  Difficulties in securing a sufficient number of production contracts plagued the factory from an early stage and, by January 1982, it was forced to cease production permanently. In May 1986, despite its closure, the scheme became the first post-war building to be listed. Unfortunately the Grade II* listing did not save it and, after a lengthy conservation battle, the factory was demolished in 2001. The design of the Rubber Factory was highly imaginative and its social gestures well-judged but, in the end, the building proved too large and too ill-planned, economically speaking, to adapt to the changing needs of its locality.   The Twentieth Century Society

[vi] Ove Arup/Arup Associates (Established 1963) Sir Ove Arup was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1895. Generally considered the foremost engineer of his era, he created the firm Arup and Partners in 1946 as a team of structural consultants. The complex level of design considerations that the partnership encountered led to the creation of Arup Associates in 1963. Arup Associates originally developed as a partnership between engineer Ove Arup and architect Philip Downson. It existed as a multi-disciplinary office that provided architectural, surveying, and engineering services. The firm’s overall success was mainly due to Ove Arup, who believed in practical architecture, in which design fulfils social and public needs. With Arup Associates and, later, with such research and design groups as the Modern Architecture Research Group (MARS) and the Tecton Group, Arup successfully broke the narrow confines of architecture as a single profession by creating a core organization of several specialties. Arup died in London in 1988.Arup Associates – Great Buildings Online

[vii] Brise soleil. A system of passive solar shading to reduce solar heat gains to buildings whilst maintaining levels of diffused light  Brise Soleil

2.5 Britain in the interwar years; reluctance to roadside showmanship.

The First World War had provided a hiatus for some in the field of architecture; others had seized the opportunity to express the use of new materials and economic design. Industrial buildings were designed through necessity and economy, the availability of reinforced concrete had provided a means for this.

The Kahn designed “daylight “factory may have proved an efficient, opportune and economic means of building in this period. Some may have appreciated the new “Concrete Aesthetic” brought in by these massive unadorned and concrete frames, but in Britain it was felt perhaps to be too austere for our tastes and would benefit from a little adornment. This may be the reason that Truscon sought out Wallis Gilbert and Partners (ref.1) to collaborate with in this country. Thomas Wallis had spotted the need for efficient factory design during the war and beyond. Collaboration with Truscon would provide the leads needed. By the end of 1916, Wallis had designed three factories with Truscon, only one being built (ref.2) but all were used for advertising purposes.

In the post war years, manufacturers and builders realised the benefits and economies of these standard systems such as the daylight factory could be reconciled with the freedom of choice that volume production of a standard unit that could be customised to suit individual customers needs gave them. Wallis realised this too and devised a system of compositional features and decorative elements to soften the Truscon system for the British customer. An example of this includes the General Electric Company (ref. 3), (G.E.C), Witton works near Birmingham (1918-22), (figure 2.17). This building had a basic Truscon superstructure with muted Wallis style added “Egyptian style” (ref.4) adornment to the facade.

2.17 GEC factory, Witton, Birmingham U.K

2.17 GEC factory, Witton, Birmingham U.K

Although expressionism had its foothold in mainland Europe, it was not necessarily enjoyed here by the British, who at this time had a reserved opinion of the “new ideas from Europe (ref.5).  There was a debate between the traditionalist and the modernist camps. The former felt that the new era was best represented in Britain by an updating of traditional forms, perhaps of classical origin, without being imitative or revivalist. It was strongly supported by the continuation of “British Values “and could be described as nationalistic (ref.6). The modernists advanced an argument for uniformity, a style of architecture that could be adapted to any building type, be socially unifying, and be more representative of the new age , the technological age. It seemed likely that British architects would take a middle line using elements of both movements.

While concrete, glass and steel were arguably celebrated in Europe and the USA for example with Eugene Freysinnets’ (ref.7)Orly airport hangar (ref.8)(1921), (figure 2.18) where he demonstrated with the catenary arch (ref.9) the impressive dimensions that reinforced concrete could achieve in the hands of war-experienced engineers and with the concrete shell work of the Mexican based architect Felix Candela (ref.10).

2.18 Orly Airport Hangar

2.18 Orly Airport Hangar

With the new construction techniques that followed on from Gropius in Europe which allowed glass to be used to full effect in the example of the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam (1928-30) (ref.11) (figure 2.19) and with the expression of exposed steel frame that was celebrated in the Fromm Rubber factory, Berlin (1930)(ref.12) (Figure 2.20).

2.19 Van Nelle factory, Rotterdam

2.19 Van Nelle factory, Rotterdam


2.20 Fromm Rubber factory, Germany

2.20 Fromm Rubber factory, Germany

Although , perhaps , through the necessity of war requirements the British had embraced to some degree the concrete idea, its buildings could still effect a heavy overly substantial  appearance. This was partly due to the delay in changing building regulations post 1918, and partly to the assumed contemporary notions that industrial buildings had to be solid and large areas of glass or slender concrete members could appear flimsy.

It took another early employee of Truscon, Sir E Owen Williams (ref.13) to bring forward the ideas of expressionism and extended possibilities of the use of concrete to Britain. After Truscon, he set up his own company “Williams Concrete Structures ltd” to market his own patent “Fabricrete” (ref.14). He used his wartime experience to success when he was appointed chief engineer of the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 (ref.15), (figure 2.21) and gaining a knighthood for his efforts in building large-scale quickly constructed buildings. The now demolished Wembley football stadium (ref.16) being a notable example.

2.21 British Empire exhibition buildings

2.21 British Empire exhibition buildings

However, it was an American company, namely Jesse Boots (ref.17), who commissioned him to build possibly his most noted factory, the Boots “Wets”(ref.18) building (1932) (figure 2.22) in Beeston, near Nottingham.

2.22 Boots 'Wets' factory Nottingham U.K

2.22 Boots 'Wets' factory Nottingham U.K

It was a green field site and he was working to a precise brief with production flow lines and required accommodation for precise operations and the links between these operations. The result was a highly glazed building set around two immense atria within which the production processes revolved. It was an immense four-storey slab structure building , set upon mushroom columns set back to allow the outer glass and steel curtain walling to sit uninterrupted, the production floor being lit from an vast span of bulls eye glazing panels (figure 2.23).

2.23 Boots Factory Nottingham, 'Wets' Interior

2.23 Boots Factory Nottingham, 'Wets' Interior

As yet, nothing had been seen like it in Britain and it could only be compared with the Van Nelle Factory in Rotterdam (1928-30). Both buildings, it should be noted, display no form of outward decoration. Possibly the only other U.K building of this genre was the factory built for the Viyella company (1932) (ref.19), coincidentally also in Nottingham (figure 2.24). The use of flat slab and mushroom column construction allowed here the use of a curtain of glass on all four sides, therefore allowing maximum penetration of natural light.  This building does display a small amount of decoration with a stylised artificial stone entrance surround.

2.24 Viyella Factory Nottingham U.K

2.24 Viyella Factory Nottingham U.K

Running concurrently with the developments above, there was a move to use the factory as a commercial asset. Manufacturers in the 1920s and 1930s were operating in a fiercely competitive market trying to attract an increasing domestic demand. Many factories were located near and were visible to potential customers, either near the railways or adjacent to the increasing trunk road network. A new industry, advertising was coming of age and it was now time to put this and the factory together by using the building itself as a potentially promotional device.

Before this period, styling had been largely for fun or as a dressing. Advertising was limited to putting the company’s name on the chimney or tower, usually in white brick, as there was a limited audience for the advertising. The period between the wars saw a change in attitude as companies, at first mainly subsidiaries of American ones, with nationally known brands, sought prominent sites on the new roads around London. Good examples are Firestone tyres (1928(ref.20) ( figure 2.25) on the Great West road, Hoover in Perivale (1931-35)(ref.21) (figure 2.26) both by Wallis Gilbert and partners, Smiths potato Crisps in Cricklewood (ref.22), and Currys (then a cycle and radio manufacturer) also on the Great West road. Here again, although these buildings displayed highly decorated frontages to attract public attention, stuccoed in white “Snowcrete” cement (ref.23) and with brightly coloured faience, the plant behind usually consisting of a stark simple “Kahn” type building.  In Fact the most striking part of these buildings was their use of colour, green window framing and red faience (ref.24) with Hoover, and coloured tiles on the “Pseudo-Egyptian” style tiles at Firestone, all emphasised by spotlighting at night.

2.25 Firestone tyre factory London U.K

2.25 Firestone tyre factory London U.K


2.26 Hoover factory London U.K

2.26 Hoover factory London U.K

Wallis’s buildings, now often described as “Art Deco” (ref.25), or at the time often described as “Fancy”, took a lot of professional criticism by his professional peers but were liked by the public who admired their colourful facades designed to look more like a contemporary cinema rather than a dull factory. Later buildings in the same London area such as the Gillette building, Isleworth (1936) (ref.26)(figure 2.27), and the Guinness Brewery (1933-36) (ref.27), (figure 2.28) took on a more muted form with plain English brick and pared down classical ornamental elements.

2.27 Gillette Razor factory, London U.K

2.27 Gillette Razor factory, London U.K

2.28 Guinness Brewery, London U.K

2.28 Guinness Brewery, London U.K

To conclude this section it is worth noting that although British factory architecture in the interwar period did not immediately embrace expressionism, there became a widespread use of reinforced concrete and steel construction, if only encouraged by firms and ideas from abroad. The blend of newer technologies and dressing up by British architects to adapt designs for their market produced a muted effect, although such examples as the Boots and Viyella factories pointed the way forward. Greater thought was given to the arrangement of plant to aid production, to increase the social welfare and well-being of the workforce.

The emergence of newer industries surrounding the automobile (ref.28), electrical (ref.29)and chemical (ref.30)industries meant a shift from the now declining textile base of the north to the newly created estates (ref.31) in the midlands and south, especially around London. This gave firms such as Wallis and Gilbert the chance to create their innovative designs.  We can also witness the move from the pure use of engineers as factory designers to the emergence of the architect engineer and the architect alone.


1. Wallis, Gilbert & Partners. The practice had been founded by Thomas Wallis (1872-I953), who in 1914 was approached by Kahncrete, the American engineering company that specialized in reinforced-concrete structures for industry and had developed its interests in the UK through a subsidiary, the Trussed Concrete Steel company (Truscon). Wallis was to have worked with Kahncrete in partnership with an American architect, Gilbert, and set up a firm styled Wallis, Gilbert & Partners — the latter being Frank Cox and, later, Wallis’ son, Douglas. The name was retained despite the fact that Gilbert never came to Britain to join the practice. Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture In Britain !750-1939, p. 213

2.  J. Taylor and son ltd. New Southgate, London. Joan Skinner “Form and Fancy”, Liverpool, 1997, page 15.

3. G.E.C Company. In 1876, Ohio born Thomas Alva Edison opened a new laboratory in Menlo Park New Jersey, USA. Out of the laboratory came the invention a practical incandescent electric lamp. By 1890, Edison had organized his various businesses into the Edison General Electric light Company or GEC. The company established a very large engineering works in Witton, Birmingham, in 1891.The General Electric Company acquired land at Witton in 1899, and in 1901 began building its large factory together with houses for its workers. At one time, the company was employing 18,000 people on the site.. Witton, West Midlands –

4. Egyptian style:  “It was the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922 which gave a tremendous stimulus to the interest in Egyptian styling. Tutankhamen’s treasure was of such superb design and quality that its contents became models for future Egyptian designing. The finding and opening of the tomb and the removal of the treasure was of great public interest. The style of Art Deco, much influenced by elements of Egyptian designs, came on to the scene in 1925.  The Hoover building in London of 1931-32 is the most impressive example of an Art Deco factory with an Egyptian centrepiece, which is still standing. A surviving cinema is the Carleton at Islington, now a bingo hall, which had a multi-coloured Egyptian design on a white faience background. There were quite a few other Egyptianised cinemas from this period whose features included torcheres resembling slender palm shafts, an organ decorated with a Pharaoh’s head and a ladies rest room decorated with an Egyptian maiden bathing in a lotus pond” Design Influence 1

5.  Joan Skinner “Form and Fancy”, Liverpool, 1997, p. 41

6. Examples of traditional buildings   Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain 1750-1939, London, 1985, page  212.                                                        

7. Eugene Freyssinet (b. Correze, France 1879; d. Saint-Martin-Vesubie, France 1962). Eugene Freyssinet was born in Corneze, France in 1879. He studied at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees in Paris before he was apprenticed to the engineer Rabut. He served as an engineer in the French Army from 1904 to 1907 and again from 1914 to 1918. Between his two stints in the army he worked as a road engineer for local authorities in Central France. From 1918 until 1928 he worked as Director for the Societe des Enterprises Limousin in Paris after which he established his own practice. Freyssinet created innovative architecture using reinforced concrete as his main material. More an engineer than an architect, Freyssinet still managed to introduce several collaborative architectural works. His projects generally revolved around an experimental search for a common language. His designs allowed for a free expression of materials and spaces while working within the limits of technology.  Considered the “father of pre-stressed concrete”, Freyssinet died in Saint-Martin-Vesubie, France in 1962. Eugene Freyssinet – Great Buildings Online

8. Airship Hanger, at Orly (near Paris), France, 1916 (destroyed during WWII)  Eugene Freyssinet – Great Buildings Online

9. Catenary Arch. In physics the catenary is the shape of a hanging flexible chain or cable when supported at its ends and acted upon by a uniform gravitational force (its own weight). The chain is steepest near the points of suspension because this part of the chain has the most weight pulling down on it. Toward the bottom, the slope of the chain decreases because the chain is supporting less weight. Catenary –

10.  Felix Candela (b. Madrid, Spain 1910) Felix Candela was born in Madrid in 1910. He entered Madrid’s Escuela Superior de Arquitrectura in 1927 and graduated in 1935. Sidetracked by his political struggle against Franco, he did not practice architecture until he immigrated to Mexico in 1939. Candella believed that strength should come from form not mass. This belief led to an extensive exploration of tensile shell structures. His nickname became “The Shell Builder” because of this structural favouritism. Frequently forced to act as architect, structural engineer and contractor in order to further his work, Candella sees architects as engineers who possess the ability to design both great cathedrals and low cost housing. Felix Candela – Great Buildings Online

11.  The Van Nelle Factory and Brinkman and Van der Vlugt. The Van Nelle tobacco and cocoa factory was built in Rotterdam between 1928 and 1930 by the Dutch architects, Brinkman and Van der Vlugt, and their assistant, Mart Stam. The main block can be seen as the culmination of the multi-storey framed factory, which had steadily developed without fundamental change since the Derby Silk Mill. The owners’ statement that ‘no kind of decoration is used anywhere, as it is held to have an adverse effect upon the workers’ shows the mood of the time, and how owner and architect shared a common viewpoint. Architecturally magnificent, it followed only three years after the Bauhaus building and carried through a complex programme with originality and total architectural consistency. John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page73.

12.  Fromm Rubber and Arthur Korn. The Fagus factory was built largely of brick, Fiat and Van Nelle of reinforced concrete, and in terms of the development of light machine-made structures, these buildings were a retrogressive step from the Sheerness Boathouse. The development of the metal frame was taken up enthusiastic ally by Arthur Korn who, with S. Weitzmann, de a factory in 1930 which was a celebration of the steel frame and went far beyond the Boathouse. The three-storey-high part of this Berlin rubber factory was supported on a steel frame, clearly expressed and painted bright red: infill was of white glazed brick and steel windows imported from England. The rectangular bays of the clearly expressed frame give the building its character, and this imagery was developed by Mies van der Rohe in Chicago a decade later. John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page73

13.  Sir Owen Williams (b. London, England 1890; d. London 1969) Evan Owen Williams was born in London in 1890. He studied engineering at London University, after which he was articled to the Electrical Tramways Co. in London. In 1912, Williams assumed a position as engineer and designer with the Trussed Concrete Company. Seven years later, he started a consulting firm. Appointed chief consulting civil engineer to the British Empire Exhibition in 1923, he received a knighthood for his services. Williams designed his buildings as functional structures sheathed with decorative facades. More an engineer than an architect, Williams produced a series of reinforced concrete buildings during the period between the wars. After World War II, he worked on developing the first plan for Britain’s motorway system. Williams died in London in 1969. Sir Owen Williams – Great Buildings Online

14.  Fabricrete. Various projects using ‘Fabricrete’ including .T. Wallis & Sons factory and power station, Acton, London. Henry Boston & Sons tannery, Runcorn, Cheshire. Patent Fuel Factory, Port Talbot, West Glamorgan.  British Window Glass Works, Queensborough, Cheshire. Blackstones Tractor Factory, Stamford, London.  Ice factory, Grimsby, Humberside. Mappin & Webb factory, Sheffield. Fuel stages, Swansea.  Fairie & Company Sugar Refinery, Liverpool. Bush House foundations, Aldwych, London. Engineering Timelines – biography – Owen Williams – selected works  

15.  The British Empire Exhibition opened on 23rd April 1924 and was intended to be a reassuring display of the strength of the Empire after WW1. Pavilions were built for each colony and Great Britain was represented by three major buildings plus Wembley (formerly Empire) Stadium. The exhibition covered a 216 acre site. The three major buildings were the palaces of Industry, Engineering and Arts. All were intended to be temporary. However, the Palace of Engineering wasn’t demolished until the 1970s. The facade of the Palace of Art and the whole of the Palace of Industry still stand. The original stadium, with its distinctive towers, was demolished in 2002. Reinforced concrete seems to have been chosen as the main construction material for four reasons: cost, speed of construction, appropriateness for temporary buildings (though this seems odd today) and to show the advanced state of British concrete technology. At the time of opening, the Palace of Engineering was the world’s largest reinforced concrete structure, enclosing half a million sq ft. The ten-acre Palace of Industry is slightly smaller. It consists of a series of halls with glazed pitched roofs. The columns and knees of the portal frames are cast in situ, with precast open web rafters. For the larger spans, the columns support steel lattice girders. The facades of the building are by Maxwell Ayrton, the architect of the whole exhibition complex. Other items of interest include part of the reinforced concrete elevated track for the screw-driven ‘Neverstop’ railway that took visitors around the site, which can be seen adjacent to Wembley Park Station — itself another element of the exhibitions’ construction programme. In 1933, the site owners commissioned Owen Williams to design the Empire Pool, one of the largest in the world at 200ft by 60ft. It was built on the site of the exhibition’s artificial lake. The building that housed it also enclosed 4,000 spectators. William’s concrete frames spanned 236ft clear and were exposed on the outside of the building. This building is now known as Wembley Arena. Owen Williams was knighted for his work on this site. He was 34 years old at the time. Engineering Timelines – explore … where


17. Jesse Boots firm was owned by the United Drugs company.

18.  Wets, applies to the type of pharmaceutical product involved, i.e. liquid forms rather than solids e.g. tablets and powders.

19.  Viyella is now part of the Coats Viyella /Tootal group. Coat Viyella is the largest textile company in the UK. It consists of two divisions, Coats is the world’s leading manufacturer of sewing thread with annual turnover of GBP 1 billion. Its multinational network is made up of manufacturing units in 60 countries. Coats Viyella/Tootal

20.  Firestone Tyre & Rubber Co. built in Brentford established a formula that  was to be exploited successfully elsewhere on the Great West Road, and for Hoover on Western Avenue. Long office blocks, punctuated by massive pseudo-Egyptian columns, adorned with coloured tiles and entered through splendid doorways, fronted the factory sheds behind. The Firestone example was all the more remarkable when it is considered that the works had been designed in twenty-one days and a mere eighteen weeks had elapsed between the start of construction and the manufacture of the first lyre. The two-storey administration building and the four-storey warehouse were of reinforced concrete (the general contractors being Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons and the reinforced steel supplied by the Trussed Concrete Steel Co., while the single-storey factory situated between them was steel framed. The layout, arranged to accommodate the flow of mass-production pro cesses, the growing emphasis on the workforce’s welfare and the building’s dramatic appearance led The Architect to comment that: both in design and planning, British factories are noticeably improving. In design the improvement is due to the increasing realization that nothing made for human use is unworthy of the attention of the designer; and in planning to the pressure of competition necessitating efficiency both in lay-out and in detail.” Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain! 750-1939, p. 213.

21.  “The Hoover Factory, opened in 1932, advanced the Firestone composition further by the addition of two futuristic staircase towers. TI Egyptian columns, false pediment and ornate entrance were all present but more vigorously interpreted. In 1935, to raise the plant’s manufacturing capacity, a four-storey extension was added by the architects. This steel-framed building (rendered in white cement) was designed to “provide clear floor space for machinery, any necessary planning being carried out by means of movable glazed steel partitioning”. The canteen, erected in 1938, featured generous areas o externally hung glass, some of the windows curving around to form the striking entrance”. Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain, 1750-1939, p. 214.

22.  Smiths Crisps Company. The first person to manufacture crisps in the UK was a gentleman called Frank Smith of Smith’s crisps in the 1920’s. Frank Smith opened his first factory in Cricklewood, London. Potato Crisps » Potato Crisps (Interesting Facts about Potato Crisps)

23.  Snowcrete. This is the trade name for an Ordinary Portland Cement where the raw materials are selected for good colour, and the clinker is ground with ceramic balls, not iron as for OPC. It can be tinted with pigments; so, should you want strawberry pink concrete this is possible. Cement, mortar and concrete FAQ

24.  Faience: earthenware decorated with coloured opaque metallic glazes. MSN Encarta – Search Results – faience

25.  Art deco: Style of architecture, interior design, and jewellery most popular in the 1930s that used geometrical designs bold colours and outlines.

26.   “The Gillette Building , Architect Bannister Fletcher, on the Great West Road is described in The Buildings of England as of a ‘very incongruous, timidly modernistic grandeur”; In 1936 Gillette Isleworth building was constructed and officially opened on the 6th January 1937 by Sir George Broardbridge, then, The Lord Mayor of London “.Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture

27.  “The Guinness Brewery (Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) at Park Royal was constructed on a landscaped open site in 1933-36 by the consulting engineers Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners, who brought in Sir Giles Gilbert Scott as architect. Scott, fresh from his acclaimed triumph at Battersea Power Station, designed and detailed the brick exteriors of the reinforced-concrete brewery blocks. The result was a powerful monumental group, vast and yet approachable and friendly.” The Twentieth Century Society

28.  Automotive industries: Ford Motor Company, Dagenham, Essex, 1930. Firestone Tyre Company, q.v note 63 above. Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain, 1750-1939, p. 209.

29.  Electrical industries: Hoover q.v note 62 above, Belling lee company, Radio and electrical components, Great West Cambridge road, Enfield , 1932.Local History Industry in Enfield A History – Enfield Council Website

30.  Chemical industries: Pyrene company, London 1930, Joan Skinner “Form and Fancy”, Liverpool, 1997,  pp 134-137

31.  Examples include Slough industrial estate 1920 and Team valley estate 1937.

2.4 The “Modern” factory and thoughts from Europe.

We cannot leave this period without mentioning relevant events in Europe. The factories and warehouses of the eighteenth and nineteenth century were on the whole the work of practical men and engineers. Architects as such had not availed themselves of such mundane work[i]. Their work had often been limited to adorning an engineered building.

However, in the early part of the twentieth century, architects who were starting to react against the superficial historical revivals of this time were taking note of the potential of new materials, steel and concrete, and construction methods available in industrial building.  The two came together with the partnership between the German firm of AEG[ii] and the industrial designer/architect Peter Behrens.[iii] Industrialisation in Germany was barely thirty years old and the electrical industry spearheaded by AEG was particularly new and full of enthusiastic ideas. Herr P Jordan asked Behrens to design products for AEG, the packaging, the advertising and the buildings, in short a “corporate image”. The result, building wise was The AEG turbine factory in Berlin (1909), (figure 2.15) often claimed as the “first modern building”[iv].

2.15. AEG turbine Hall

2.15. AEG turbine Hall

It is of immense size, almost monumental proportions constructed of steel and concrete, its sides of glass slope inwards as they rise which gives it a heavy solid stance on the ground.

A young assistant in Behrens office at the time was Walter Gropius[v]. Other notable junior members at this time were Mies van der Rohe[vi] and Charles-Edouard Jeanneret later known as “Le Corbusier”[vii]. They held positions in the Deutsche Werkbund[viii] who promoted the AEG turbine hall to iconic status and published it in their yearbook of 1913 along with Kahn’s “daylight factories” built in reinforced concrete. The publication argues for a new architecture that reflected the spirit of the age, that of mass production.

Also involved with the Werkbund was Carl Benscheidt Sr., a client of Fagus, a shoe last company, in Alfeld an der Rhein. They had already had a reinforced “daylight” concrete factory built by the English agricultural engineer Ernest Ransome[ix] and had already started to design the main body of a new factory with the architect Eduard Werner[x]. They asked Gropius in the spring of 1911 to add modern exterior elevations to promote a progressive image. The result was that Gropius imbued a strong delineation to the facade, marked by an emphatic two-storey brick entrance with its apparently floating staircase (figure 2.16). Possibly the first use of glass in this way, Gropius emphasised the glazing and apparently structural innovation of the pier free corners seemingly throwing away all means of support.

2.16 Fagus works by Walter Gropius

2.16 Fagus works by Walter Gropius

Therefore, in some cases, a tradition of expressionist architecture had been able to develop in Germany before the war by virtue of patronage by industrialists. It was able to grow in the interwar years through the work of the Bauhaus[xi] and le Corbusier and later was to influence a generation of architects in Germany, USA and eventually Britain.


[i] “Within the hierarchy of decorum, industrial structures, warehouses, mills or foundries rated low. In effect they were the Third Estate of the architectural world; not for them the finery of the parliament house or the regal residence.” As Fairbairn recollected,” in this pioneering phase: mill architecture was out of the question … and the architecture of the country was confined to churches, public buildings and the mansions of the barons or lords of the soil.” ), Edgar Jones ,  Industrial Architecture in Britain 1750-1939, London, 1985, page23.

[ii] AEG (Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft) was established in Berlin in 1883 by Mr. Rathenau, who had obtained the Edison system patent for producing incandescent lamps in Germany. The first AEG factory therefore produced lamps, which meant that it entered the same sector as Siemens and the American company General Electric. The development of electronics and market requests pushed AEG to develop in other sectors such as small, and subsequently big, motors. Circuit Breakers Electro technical Devices Relays Aeg Electro technology Electrical Devices

[iii]  Peter Behrens (b. Hamburg, Germany 1868; d. Berlin, Germany 1940) Peter Behrens was born in Hamburg in 1868. Originally trained as a painter, Behrens eventually abandoned painting in favour of graphic and applied arts. In 1899, he was invited to the Artists’ Colony at Darmstadt where he maintained a leadership position. Afterwards he worked as the Director of the Kunstgewerkeschule in Dusseldorf. Behrens’s interim there stimulated a new geometric abstraction in his work. From 1907 to 1914, Behrens worked as an artistic adviser to the AEG in Berlin. While with AEG, he created the world’s first corporate image. Most of his architectural designs for the AEG borrowed from industry in terms of both form and material. The Turbine Factory in Berlin-Moabit most successfully displays the industrial nature of most of his buildings. Behrens can be considered a key figure in the transition from Jugendstil to Industrial Classicism. He played a central role in the evolution of German Modernism. Behrens died in Berlin in 1940 .Peter Behrens – Great Buildings Online

 [iv]   John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page69

[v] Walter Gropius (b. Berlin, Germany 1883; d. Boston, Massachusetts 1969) Walter Gropius was born in Berlin in 1883. The son of an architect, he studied at the Technical Universities in Munich and Berlin. He joined the office of Peter Behrens in 1910 and three years later established a practice with Adolph Meyer. For his early commissions he borrowed from the Industrial Classicism introduced by Behrens. After serving in the war, Gropius became involved with several groups of radical artists that sprang up in Berlin in the winter of 1918. In March 1919, he was elected chairman of the Working Council for Art and a month later was appointed Director of the Bauhaus. As war became eminent, Gropius left the Bauhaus and resumed private practice in Berlin. Eventually, he was forced to leave Germany for the United States, where he became a professor at Harvard University. From 1938 to 1941, he worked on a series of houses with Marcel Breuer and in 1945; he founded “The Architect’s Collaborative”, a design team that embodied his belief in the value of teamwork. Gropius created innovative designs that borrowed materials and methods of construction from modern technology. This advocacy of industrialized building carried with it a belief in teamwork and an acceptance of standardization and prefabrication. Using technology as a basis, he transformed building into a science of precise mathematical calculations. An important theorist and teacher, Gropius introduced a screen wall system that utilized a structural steel frame to support the floors and which allowed the external glass walls to continue without interruption. Gropius died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1969. Walter Gropius – Great Buildings Online

[vi]  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (b. Aachen, Germany 1886; d. Chicago, Illinois 1969) Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe was born in Aachen, Germany in 1886. He worked in the family stone-carving business before he joined the office of Bruno Paul in Berlin. He entered the studio of Peter Behrens in 1908 and remained until 1912. Under Behrens’ influence, Mies developed a design approach based on advanced structural techniques and Prussian Classicism. He also developed sympathy for the aesthetic credos of both Russian Constructivism and the Dutch De Stijl group. He borrowed from the post and lintel construction of Karl Friedrich Schinkel for his designs in steel and glass. Mies worked with the magazine G that started in July 1923. He made major contributions to the architectural philosophies of the late 1920s and 1930s as artistic director of the Werkbund-sponsored Weissenhof project and as Director of the Bauhaus. Famous for his dictum ‘Less is more’, Mies attempted to create contemplative, neutral spaces through an architecture based on material honesty and structural integrity. Over the last twenty years of his life, Mies achieved his vision of a monumental ‘skin and bone’ architecture. His later works provide a fitting denouement to a life dedicated to the idea of a universal, simplified architecture Mies died in Chicago, Illinois in 1969. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – Great Buildings Online

 [vii]  Le Corbusier (b. La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland; d. Cap Martin, France 1965) Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris was born in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, 1887. Trained as an artist, he travelled extensively through Germany and the East. In Paris, he studied under Auguste Perret and absorbed the cultural and artistic life of the city. During this period, he developed a keen interest in the synthesis of the various arts. Jeanneret-Gris adopted the name Le Corbusier in the early 1920s. Le Corbusier’s early work was related to nature, but as his ideas matured, he developed the Maison-Domino, a basic building prototype for mass production with freestanding pillars and rigid floors. In 1917 he settled in Paris where he issued his book Vers une architecture [Towards a New Architecture], based on his earlier articles in L’Esprit Nouveau. From 1922, Le Corbusier worked with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. During this time, Le Corbusier’s ideas began to take physical form, mainly as houses which he created as “a machine for living in” and which incorporated his trademark five points of architecture. During World War II, Le Corbusier produced little beyond some theories on his utopian ideals and on his modular building scale. In 1947, he started his Unite d’habitation. Although relieved with sculptural rooflines and highly coloured walls, these massive post-war dwelling blocks received justifiable criticism. Le Corbusier’s post-war buildings rejected his earlier industrial forms and utilized vernacular materials, brute concrete and articulated structure. Near the end of his career, he worked on several projects in India, which utilized brutal materials and sculptural forms. In these buildings, he readopted the recessed structural column, the expressive staircase, and the flat undecorated plane of his celebrated five points of architecture. Le Corbusier did not fare well in international competition, but he produced town-planning schemes for many parts of the world, often as an adjunct to a lecture tour. In these schemes, the vehicular and pedestrian zones and the functional zones of the settlements were always emphasized. Le Corbusier – Great Buildings Online

[viii]  Deutsche Werkbund. German association of architects, designers and industrialists. It was active from 1907 to 1934 and then from 1950. It was founded in Munich, prompted by the artistic success of the third Deutsche Kunstgewerbeausstellung, held in Dresden in 1906, and by the then current, very acrimonious debate about the goals of applied art in Germany. Its founder members included Hermann Muthesius, Peter Behrens, Heinrich Tessenow, Fritz Schumacher and Theodor Fischer, who served as its first president.. Deutscher Werkbund

[ix] Ransomes agricultural engineers. Originally from Ipswich Suffolk often known for their lawn mowers. OASI – The Ransomes connection

[x] Eduard Werner (1847-1923), was a colleague of Carl Benscheidt Sr., a client for Fagus whom Gropius knew from an earlier renovation of the Behrens’s factory. Fagus Factory –

[xi] BAUHAUS 1919-1933 || The Bauhaus occupies a place of its own in the history of 20th century culture, architecture, design, art and new media. One of the first colleges of design, it brought together a number of the most outstanding contemporary architects and artists and was not only an innovative training centre but also a place of production and a focus of international debate. At a time when industrial society was in the grip of a crisis, the Bauhaus stood almost alone in asking how the modernization process could be mastered by means of design. || Founded in Weimar in 1919, the Bauhaus rallied masters and students who sought to reverse the split between art and production by returning to the crafts as the foundation of all artistic activity and developing exemplary designs for objects and spaces that were to form part of a more humane future society. bauhaus Dessau

2.3. Over here, the “Model” Factory and influence from the USA.

The development of the multi-storey mill starting in the 18th century was on the whole a British affair which was adapted throughout the world. However, in the early part of the 20th century, across the Atlantic new production methods were being developed, based on the ideas of Frederick Taylor in his publication “Principles of scientific management” (ref.1) and spearheaded by Henry Ford (ref.2)and the needs of the automotive industry.

This tied in with the availability of a newly developed reinforced concrete system developed by the Kahn brothers in Detroit. The “Kahn system” (ref.3) as it was patented, was marketed by the newly formed “Kahncrete” company and its subsidiary “Trussed Concrete Steel Company”, or “Truscon” as it was often known. The company’s aim was to sell the system under licence in the USA and Britain where Moritz Kahn sought new markets and established an office in London (1907).

Albert Khan (ref.4)completed a factory for the Packard Motor Company (ref.5),Detroit (ref.6)(1903), (figure 2.7) the first American reinforced concrete building and the first to have steel windows imported from England.

fig 2.7 Packard factory

fig 2.7 Packard factory

These elements produced a lighter building than ever before. In 1906 with the Pierce Automobile plant in Buffalo (ref.7), New York, (figure 2.8) he designed a factory in which self-contained work cycles were housed within a single storey, steel framed, top lit by “saw tooth” (ref.8) roof glazed buildings designed for uniform lighting and physical flexibility to aid production within.

fig 2.8 Pierce Auto factory

fig 2.8 Pierce Auto factory

Khan was then commissioned by Henry Ford to build a new four-storey plant in Highland Park Detroit (1910) (Figure 2.9) and three years later built the factory to house the world’s first moving assembly line. This was for the “Ford model T.” (ref.9) Ford demanded a building with the focus on open space, adaptability, uncluttered areas suitable for production flow lines where the planned integrated processes, from the arrival of raw materials to the finished product, could all take place on one level.

fig 2.9. Ford Highland Park Auto factory

fig 2.9. Ford Highland Park Auto factory

His next commission was the Ford Rouge plant (ref.10) (1916), (figure 2.10), a mammoth plant, its assembly line ran through a series of single storey units. Here Khan introduced the use of steel rather than reinforced concrete for its structural framework. Kahn was to develop this design in numerous subsequent factories, all single storey, all lit from above to enable the floor to be kept clear for machinery and processes. Services such as lavatories and offices were placed at a higher, often mezzanine level.

fig 2.10 Ford Rouge Auto plant

fig 2.10 Ford Rouge Auto plant

These buildings became known as “Model factories” and their design as the “Kahn Daylight system” being based on a regular grid of column, beam and slab. Concrete sections were fully exposed and external wall spaces were glass filled with slender glazing bars. Truscon opened their first example of this type of building in the U.K at Trafford Park, Manchester (1911) for the Ford motor company (figure 2.11).

fig 2.11. Manchester industry park

fig 2.11. Manchester industry park

Soon after on a green field site in Dumfries, a three story E shaped factory was built for the Arrol–Johnson Motor Company(ref.11) (1912-13), (figure 2.12). A four story building for the engineers G.J Weir ltd, Glasgow (1912-13) and another for the Albion Motor company in Glasgow (1913-15) (ref.12)(figure 2.13) were also completed. The aforementioned Uniroyal factory in Dumfries may be another unconfirmed early example.

fig 2.12.  Arrol Johnson auto plant

fig 2.12. Arrol Johnson auto plant

fig 2.13. Albion motors

fig 2.13. Albion motors

The increasing availability of this new fast economic and adaptable reinforced concrete coincided with the shortage of materials created by the military build up for the First World War(ref.13) in Europe, and the relaxing of building regulations. Its versatility also made it more attractive. Truscon took advantage of this, designing innumerable civil factories before turning to establishments required for armaments and defence hardware. One example being the Birmingham Small Arms factory(ref.14) (B.S.A) (1914), in Small Heath , West Midlands, (Figure 2.14), whose design appeared as a chequer board of concrete piers and rectangular windows.

fig 2.14. B.S.A works Birmingham

fig 2.14. B.S.A works Birmingham

(ref.1)Frederick Taylor published “The Principles of Scientific Management “1911, where he recommended the use of scientific method to systematise and standardise industry. Taylor demonstrated, for example, that if a man carried out orders to the minutest detail and showed no initiative he could load over 47 tons of pig iron a day onto a railway truck. He then used this as a standard to judge other workers who, he found, were typically loading only about 12 tons. Taylor reasoned that the hard working employee should be better paid and was happier to work under these conditions. There were then attempts to take these models of industrial efficiency into schools. Under the guidance of the US Office of Education a number of schools were surveyed their own work and ‘objective tests’ were developed to determine the quality of teaching.  www.enquirylearning.net/ELU/Issues/Research/Res1Ch3.html

(ref.2)Henry Ford, the son of farmer, was born in Greenfield, Michigan on 30th July, 1863. He left school at 15 to work on his father’s farm but in 1879 he moved to Detroit, Michigan where he became an apprentice in a machine shop. To help him survive on his low wages he spent his evenings repairing clocks and watches.  Ford returned to Greenfield after his father gave him 40 acres to start his own farm. He disliked farming and spent much of the time trying to build a steam road carriage and a farm locomotive. Unable to settle at Greenfield, Ford returned to Detroit to work as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company. During this period Ford read an article in the World of Science how the German engineer Nicolas Otto, had built a internal combustion engine. Ford now spent his spare time trying to build a petrol-driven motor car. His first car, finished in 1896, was built in a little brick shed in his garden. Driven by a two-cylinder, four-cycle motor, it was mounted on bicycle wheels. Named the Thin Lizzie, the car had no reverse gear or brakes.The Henry Ford: The Life of Henry Ford

(ref.3) Kahn system Kahn first developed the concrete framing system when he worked with Henry Ford to design the first automobile assembly line in a long, low building in 1909 in Highland Park, Michigan. Kahn went on to design many more factories and of his 2,000 works, some 500 were factories built in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.University of Michigan – Michigan Today

 (ref.4)Albert Kahn.  Born. Rhaunen, Germany 1869; d. New York, N.Y. 1942) Albert Kahn was born in Rhaunen, Germany in 1869. In 1884, four years after emigrating to the U.S. Kahn joined the architectural firm of Mason & Rise. Eventually, he became the firm’s principal architect and chief designer. In 1891, during his tenure with Mason & Rise, he visited Europe on a scholarship award. In 1896, Kahn established a partnership with George Nettleton and Alexander Trowbridge, which dissolved in 1900. In 1902, Kahn established his own practice. Although his early work was unassuming, Kahn achieved a breakthrough in 1906 with his single storey, top-lit modular design for the George N. Pierce Plant in Buffalo, New York. Designed to uniform lighting and physical flexibility, it rapidly became the prototype for American factory design, particularly in the emerging motor industry. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Kahn was not inclined to “romanticize the machine”. Extensions of user needs, his designs provided efficient and practical solutions to a growing industrial environment. By the late 1930s Kahn employed over 600 people and was responsible for nearly a fifth of the industrial buildings within the U.SAlbert Kahn – Great Buildings Online

 (ref.5)Packard. “The first large scale modern auto plant, the first nine building erected on the site were made in the old style with wood timbers. However building #10 (1905), was made of reinforced steel and concrete (The Kahn System), and was the first factory built that way. The system of reinforced concrete revolutionized factory design and Albert Kahn went on to build many other factories with the design perfected on Packard .www.internationalmetropolis.com/detroit/packard

 (ref.6) “Detroit‘s glory years were 1910 to 1930. In 1929, 5.3 million automobiles were produced, and half the city’s labour force worked in the industry. Spurred by a tremendous immigration movement, the population had swelled from under 300,000 in 1900 to more than 1.5 million in 1929. At that time, Detroit became the foremost industrial centre in the United States” Architecture Week – Culture – The Factory Architecture of Albert Kahn – 2000.1101

(ref.7)1906 George N. Pierce Plant, Buffalo, NY, Architect: Albert Kahn. This automobile factory, home of the famous Pierce Arrow car, was the first industrial “modular” building. It was designed so that any number of extensions could be added onto it. Skylights in the roof provided the most efficient form of natural light for workers on the new assembly line. http://www.artistsdomain.com/dev/eere/web/images/timeline/1900/pierce2a.jpg

(ref.8) Saw tooth Roof. A saw tooth roof is an old design often seen in industrial buildings. Typically one sloped surface is opaque and the other is glazed. A contemporary saw tooth roof may have solar collectors or photovoltaic cells on the south-facing slope and daylight glazing on the north-facing slope.DOE Building Technologies Program: Daylighting

(ref.9)Ford adopted the idea of focusing primarily on one mass-produced product with his Model T (a code name assigned by the design department), launched in 1908 and nicknamed the “Tin Lizzie.” Nearly 15 million cars were produced in the twenty years of the Model T’s existence (1908-27); following World War I, more than one new car in two produced in the United States was a Ford Model T. In addition, Ford decided to begin manufacturing all the auto parts on a single site. Architecture Week – Culture – The Factory Architecture of Albert Kahn – 2000.1101

(ref.10)Ford Rouge plant. During the late 1920s and early 1930s the Ford Rouge plant became the largest industrial complex in the world, as well as the most advanced, architecturally and technically.  Because Henry Ford was determined to be independent of suppliers, he developed the Rouge into an almost self-sufficient and self-contained industrial city. Construction began on April 1, 1917 and 10 years later the facility contained 93 structures, 90 miles of railroad tracks, 27 miles of conveyors, 53,000 machine tools and 75,000 employees. Detroit architect Albert Kahn designed most of the complex. Today, the Rouge is only one of many Ford Motor Co. manufacturing and assembling facilities. But it is still unique in American industry. Situated on more than 2,000 acres in Dearborn along the Rouge River, a tributary of the Detroit River southwest of downtown Detroit, the Rouge plant was built to easily receive iron ore from Upper Michigan and coal from Pennsylvania by ship. A huge basin in the Rouge allowed the freighters room to easily dock, unload and manoeuvre out. Henry Ford had purchased the site in 1915 as a new home for his revolutionary automated assembly line, perfected at his Highland Park facility. On May 26, 1927, the last Model T came off the line at Highland Park. In September of that year the new Model A began rolling out of the Rouge plant. Over the next 15 years, 15 million cars paraded out of the Rouge. DETNEWS.COM | History Photo Gallery

(ref.11) Arrol-Johnson, Sir William Arrol was the Engineer (who I am told is Scotland’s most famous) responsible for such works as the bridge in Edinburgh, Sydney Harbour, Nile bridge in Egypt and London Bridge. The car company commenced in 1895 making “Dog Carts” a very basic type of car. Google Image Result for http://www.dumfries-and-galloway.co.uk/people/images/gall_cars.jpg

(ref.12)Albion Car Company. The Albion name has appeared on vehicles from 1899 to 1975, (Taken over by Leyland motors in 1950).
A few private cars were made between 1900 and 1915 of either two or four cylinders. The first motor dogcarts, in June 1900, had tiller steering, gear-change by “Patent Combination Clutches”, solid tyres and cost £400.British Motor Manufacturers 1894-1960, Albion

 (ref.13)Companies applying for licences to build a factory or extension during the First war were required to use as little wood or steel as possible Reinforced concrete became the obvious choice as it used less steel framing and concrete was not in short supply. Joan S Skinner, Form and Fancy, Liverpool, 1997, page 28.

(ref.14) Birmingham Small Arms. BSA dates back to the Crimean War (1854-1856). Fourteen Birmingham gunsmiths founded the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association to supply armaments to the British government. Their association was cemented in 1861 when they became the Birmingham Small Arms Company. A new factory was built at Small Heath in 1863, which was then on the edge of Birmingham. They diversified into making bicycles, motorcycles and motorcars. Following a turbulent period in the 1960s two BSA companies emerged, BSA Guns and BSA Regal (motorcycles). BSA Guns are still based at the Small Heath factoryGoogle Image Result for http://www.birminghamstories.co.uk/db/media/lrg/BSA_factory.jpg

Section 2. Structure and the search for light; taking the factory into a new century.

 Technological developments in factory design of the nineteenth century (ref.1) provided the foundation for the new century in factory building. On reflection, even though such significant technological advances as the introduction of iron framing and reinforced concrete became readily available, as yet, builders were reluctant, with the exception perhaps of Sheerness boathouse (ref.2), to celebrate this material in an outward form. The majority of mill buildings still displayed what we may now call traditional large multi fenestrated look with a brick or stone exterior sometimes of “fortress” proportions as in the “A” Bond warehouse (1905) Bristol (figure2.1) The windows may have got bigger, as buildings became deeper and longer with larger machinery, culminating in the “Mons” mill (1914) (ref.3) (figure2.2) at Todmorden where only thin brick mullions divided the windows, but as yet there were no glass sheet walls.

fig 2.1 A Bond warehouse Bristol

fig 2.1 A Bond warehouse Bristol

fig 2.2 Mons Mill

fig 2.2 Mons Mill

In such warehouse buildings the iron structure was contained within and remained partially supported by an outer load bearing wall. At Sheerness (figure 2.3) the frame became a self supporting structure leaving the outer wall to be free of such load bearing constraints and allow the use of lightweight corrugated iron panels and large areas of glazing.

fig2.3 Sheerness Boathouse

fig2.3 Sheerness Boathouse

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the modern factory was seen as the perfect functional building, with improved materials, building technology, and designed to work with the organisation of the industrial process.  Their core may have been built of the latest reinforced concrete system, have up to date iron beam technology, enjoy open spans of up to 16feet (1900) (ref.4), even lit by the latest carbon arc electric light (ref.5). However, there was no rush to express the theory of rationalism (ref.6) and still outwardly, they could have the appearance of an Italianate Villa (ref.7), a Baroque mansion, (ref.8) (figure 2.4), or sport a Byzantine tower (ref.9) as displayed in John A Campbell’s Northern Insurance building in Glasgow ( ref.10)(figure 2.5) where the display of innovative construction methods are demoted to the rear of the building behind a traditional Scottish façade.

fig2.4 India House

fig2.4 India House


fig 2.5 Northern Insurance Building Glasgow

fig 2.5 Northern Insurance Building Glasgow

The common factor here is the perceived recalcitrance to consider functionalist construction methods to be an important part of architectural design. Buildings that perhaps stand as good examples of forward looking design, such as the Uniroyal Tyre factory in Dumfries (ref.11), (figure 2.6) with its pure rationalism in construction and obvious use of new building methods does not even have a recorded architect.

fig 2.6 Uniroyal Tyre factory

fig 2.6 Uniroyal Tyre factory

This potential of a design approach to the new methods and materials was not as yet openly recognised in Britain. However, events and influences from elsewhere were about to change this with the forming of the “Modern” factory movement in Europe and the forming of the “Model” factory idea in the USA which we will consider next.

1. Main developments were the introduction of fire proofing materials, and the development of the use of structural metals.

2. Sheerness Boathouse, located Inside the Port of Sheerness, is a Grade 2 listed. It was the first of its type of industrial building being a prototype of the multi-storey iron framed building, eschewing the heavily ornate decorative ironwork and elaborate features of the Victorian period. Constructed in 1866 it had operating rails so that they could be moved up and down the length of the building as would a travelling crane. There are plans for this building to be replaced outside the docks as a permanent historical centre for the Island. http://www.clcshe.eclipse.co.uk/culture.html

 3 . Mons Mill, John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page61

 4 .Span of 16feet, John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page83

 5.  Carbon arc light (1900). John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page61

 6. ref to follow

7.  Bank Mill, Failsworth near Oldham (1906). Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain 1750-1939, London 1985, page 161.

 8.  India House, Whitworth Street, Manchester (1905-6), Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain 1750-1939, London 1985, page 180.

 9. Broadstone mill near Chorley Lancashire (1910), Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain 1750-1939, London, 1985, page 188.

 10. John A Campbell, John Archibald Campbell was born at 20 Park Circus, Anderston, Glasgow, on 26 January 1859. The Northern Insurance building was John Archibald Campbell’s last building – he died during its construction. The Imperial Union Club at 94 St Vincent Street was part of the project. Dictionary of Scottish Architects – DSA Building/Design Report


11. Uniroyal factory, Aka Heathhall Uniroyal Factory, was originally built to manufacture car and aeronautical engines, later being well known for the manufacture of “Hunter” Wellington boots. It became Uniroyal in 1966.Dictionary of Scottish Architects – DSA Building/Design Report

Welcome to Industryinform blog your gateway to industrial architectural history and contexts

Welcome everybody to Industryinform, your gateway to study and news of industrial architecture and history.

 This blog is also a record of my personal study of the industrial architectural scene and its influence upon my furniture design practice. Most of the research stems from contextual content from my recent M.A  furniture design study which is refered to throughout the text.

The record is of a journey, the design journey of Kevin Hallsworth contemporary furniture designer and I use the metaphor of this journey throughout my writings and observations.

The following passages are an introduction to the text……

“The record of a journey of this kind may be more important if it chronicles a succession of moods than if it captures a succession of scenes”(ref.1)

 I refer back to the quote by J B Priestley (ref.2) in his Book English Journey written some 80 years ago, as he describes his journeys approach to the English Black Country (ref 3), which I used in an earlier unit where I allude to the metaphor of a journey in respect to my research studies. I also quote from my own text (ref.4).

 “Whenever I read this, it transports me back to the time, around 20 years ago, that I would be on a journey through this very same area. Most likely, I would have been driving; working with my father, Frank, in our family heating business (ref.5). One of a multitude of journeys like this, travelling to or from one of many of our jobs, where all around were the sights of industry old and new, the factories, the machinery, the people who worked there, and to accompany them, the associated colours, smells and ambience. Within our van, weighed down with the tools and spares of our industrial heating trade, the smells of industrial oils were there and still resonate now along with my own succession of remembered scenes and moods.”

 The mood of this passage has remained with me for the remainder of my study and in this further study I would like to carry this metaphor on to some extent to illustrate my thought processes. The next passage, also quoted from my own earlier texts (ref.6)  is pertinent to the prevailing ethos of my study.

 “I have a deep-rooted interest in industrial buildings, most likely stemming from the time working with my father in and around the West Midlands industrial conurbation. This time has left an impression, physically with my attained skills and mentally with the wish to synthesize the memories and ambience of this time into a tangible form through the medium of furniture design. The majority of the buildings with which I became familiar could be described perhaps as  “basic boxes” or “sheds” with arguably little architectural merit, although even amongst these there were often details remembered, structures, colours , machines etc. that now I shall venture to use as keys to open up ideas for my theme of “industry”. What these buildings were, their design, humble or otherwise, grows out of a chain of events from the past, such as developments in architectural styles, materials innovation and practical need. Conceivably this type of architecture has not been at the forefront of study, it has been put back in favour of much grander buildings.  I wish to engage with these buildings and express my interest in them by the use of the theme of industry in my designs.”

 With these two passages taken in mind the ethos of my design practice has been created and will, I hope become clear to the reader during the following work.

 To briefly recap, the first part of the journey was to explore and evaluate the various research methods available to me to complete my task, my journey. This collected knowledge, was used to build the foundation of the future design units by the creation of a study into the historical contexts of factory design and by the accumulation of a database of images to support this. This collected baggage, became the basis of the design units that followed. Selection and further evaluation from the following units provided the material, the fuel perhaps for the major project designs and the creation of tangible objects.

 The journey is almost over now, but before it is completed, I again need to reflect upon the contexts by means of a more insightful look at what the journey produced, created, and what I gained from it. How I interpreted the signs along the way and chose which route to carry on the metaphor. This is the purpose of the following written study.

To accomplish this task I intend to do the following. In the first main major section I shall again research and reflect upon the contexts surrounding the industrial building in an essay that outlines the architectural scene from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. This first section will illustrate the factory’s architectural development, through styles and materials and designers, with primary focus on British factories and warehouse type buildings but including pertinent reference to influences from Europe and the USA.

The second main major section will, with reference to the first sections information, describe and evaluate my design processes and illustrate how this physical architectural context has been converted into my design portfolio. Examples images where relevant will be shown.

In the third major section I will refer to the work of other architects and designers not necessarily mentioned in the previous work and compare examples of their practice with mine with reference to how their ethos has influenced my personal design direction.


1. Priestley. J.B. English Journey, Jubilee edition, London, Heinemann, 1984, p.85.

2.J. B. Priestley. Born, Sept. 13, 1894, Bradford, Yorkshire, Eng. died Aug. 14, 1984, Alveston, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. British novelist, playwright, and essayist, noted for his varied output and his ability for shrewd characterization.

 3. “The Black Country” Predominantly an industrial area of the West midlands north west of the city of Birmingham, encompassing the towns of Wolverhampton and Walsall in the north, down through Dudley and West Bromwich to Stourbridge in the south.

 4. M.A Design Research and enterprise unit , introduction

 5.G.T.I Heating services, specialising in the service and repair of industrial heating and ventilating equipment.

 6. M.A Design Negotiated unit 1, introduction to essay.