The gin-maker Bombay Sapphire is constructing the company’s first production facility, which will also be open for members of the public to visit and will become the home of the brand. Formerly a water-powered paper mill, the site currently contains more than forty derelict buildings, many of these are historically significant and will be regenerated and restored as part of the project. One of the original features of the site is the River Test, currently contained within a narrow high-sided concrete channel, is almost invisible. To make sense of this jumbled accumulation, the proposal is to use the river as the organisational device for the new facility. The river’s banks will be opened out and transformed into a route that brings visitors through the site to a new main courtyard at its centre. The widening of the river and the reshaping of its banks will create sloping planted foreshores, making the water visible and valuable once more.
The project brief also included a visitor centre but on exploring the dramatic sculptural forms of the vast copper gin stills, we believed that seeing the authentic distillation process, which follows a method devised in 1761, would make for a more interesting and memorable visitor experience. Because the use of the 10 botanicals in this process pointed us towards Britain’s heritage of botanical glasshouse structures, the project evolved into a proposal for two new glasshouses, one humid, the other dry temperate, that will emerge from the production buildings and sit within the waters of the widened river.
The Distillery has achieved a Breeam ‘outstanding’ rating for sustainability. It is the first facility in the drinks manufacturing industry to be awarded with this rating.