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

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