Directionality and botanical traditions in Bombay Sapphire's new in-house production facility

BY DAVID BASULTO, founder and editor-in-chief of the website ArchDaily

Elegant curves and volumes have become signature traits in the work of London-based Heatherwick Studio. From an aluminum bench in the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris to the U.K. Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo, the firm’s work has also become known for its high-tech fabrication techniques. Nearly 10 years after principal Thomas Heatherwick received a prize from gin-maker Bombay Sapphire for his concept of a glass bridge, the brand approached the studio to design its first in-house production facility and visitor center, located in a former 18th-century paper mill in the south of England. Gin there is distilled in large copper stills—according to a recipe that dates to 1761—at one of two of the newly restored structures. Inspired by the British tradition of botanical glasshouses and the Crystal Palace, Heatherwicks’ two biomorphic glass domes extrude from the historic buildings, landing in the company’s botanical gardens and waterway, where some herbs are grown. The design moves between two scales: a building and an industrial heat machine that, according to the project’s lead architect, Eliot Postma, “creates a directionality to the structure, with all of the mullions conjoining at this single point of connection, almost as if the glass is being blown from the still building and coming to rest in the river below.”