Bombay Sapphire Distillery by Heatherwick Studio

Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-01The site in the village of Laverstoke straddles the River Test, one of England’s finest chalk streams. Originally operating as a corn mill, the land was acquired in 1718 by Henry Portal and developed for the manufacture of paper to produce the world’s bank notes. Over the following two centuries it grew into a sprawling industrial complex, including a series of Grade II listed buildings such as the mill owner’s house, the workers’ cottages and the main mill building.
Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-09The result was an uncoordinated accumulation of over forty buildings which made the site chaotic and confusing to find your way around. Equally challenging, the River Test which runs through it had been narrowed and hidden within a steep-sided concrete channel making it almost impossible to perceive.
Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-02The initial master plan brief had also included the creation of a visitor centre. However on seeing the vapour distillation process and the sculptural forms of the large copper gin stills, one of which is more than two hundred years old, we became convinced that witnessing the authentic distillation process would be far more interesting and memorable for a visitor than any simulated visitor experience.
Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-03This production technique, that is different from those used by other gin distillers, is still carried out in accordance with a recipe devised in 1761 and involves infusing the gin with the vapours of ten tropical and mediterranean herbs and spices. The studio developed the idea of building two intertwining botanical glasshouses as a highlight of the central courtyard, one tropical and the other mediterranean, to house and cultivate the ten plant species that give Bombay Sapphire gin its particularity.
Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-04Excitingly, as the industrial vapour distillation process produces excess heat that otherwise has to be taken away, and as the creation of tropical and mediterranean climatic environments in the British context require additional heat, there was a potential virtuous circle if we could tie these two things together.
Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-05The resulting glasshouse structures spring from one of the historic mill buildings, now re-appropriated as a gin distillation hall, recycling the spare heat from the machinery to make the perfect growing conditions for tropical and mediterranean plants. The two glasshouses then embed themselves into the flowing waters of the newly-widened riverbed.
Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-06Working with a team from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew as horticultural collaborators, the ten exotic botanical plant types grow in the two structures alongside over a hundred additional plant and herb species that provide the accompanying ecosystem required to maintain them.
Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-07On arrival, visitors walk to the newly opened-up river, before crossing a bridge and making their way along the waterside to the main production facility located in the centre of the site facing into the courtyard and new glasshouses. Through careful restoration of the historical buildings, widening and revealing the River Test and the construction of a new gin factory system including new glasshouses, this project juxtaposes Laverstoke’s historical past with an interesting new future.
Bombay-Sapphire-Distillery-by-Heatherwick-Studio-08Location: Laverstoke, UK
Architects: Heatherwick Studio
Project Team: Thomas Heatherwick, Katerina Dionysopoulou, Eliot Postma, Alma Wang, Ville Saarikoski
Project Manager: Meller Ltd
M&E Engineer: Couch Perry Wilkes
Civil and Structural Engineers: Graham Schofield Associates
Glass House Structural Engineers: Arup
Planning Consultant: Cbre
Heritage Consultant: Giles Quarme Associates
Environmental Consultant: Skm Enviros
Process Consultant: Alectia
Horticultural Advisor: Royal Botanical Gardens Of Kew
Landscape Architect: Gwp Architects
Site Area: 20,235 Sqm
GFA: 4,500 Sqm
Visitor Experience Buildings: 2,500 Sqm
Production Facilities: 2,000 Sqm
Year: 2014
Client: Bombay Spirits Company Ltd.

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