Bombay Sapphire Distillery
The gin maker Bombay Sapphire invited the studio to design the company’s first dedicated distillery and headquarters in the south of England.
Originally developed as the mill for the British empire’s bank note paper, over two centuries the site had become a sprawling and chaotic accumulation of more than forty buildings. The River Test, one of England’s finest chalk streams, flows through the site but had been narrowed and partially hidden within a steep-sided concrete channel.
The studio’s first impulse was to reveal the River Test once more and use it as an organising device to bring clarity back to the site. Removing twenty of the most recent structures, the team undertook the painstaking restoration of the twenty-three remaining historic buildings and created a new central courtyard with the widened river running through the middle of it.
In integrating the machinery and equipment of an industrial production facility back into an ex-industrial site the studio became interested by Bombay Sapphire’s unique vapour distillation process and proposed allowing visitors to experience the real distillery itself rather than a separate visitor experience element. As the gin recipe uses both tropical and Mediterranean botanical plants to infuse the flavour, the team designed two intertwining glasshouses, one for each climatic condition, in which to grow the different species. Their particular form comes from the way they use the excess heat from the distillation process, that would otherwise normally have been thrown away, as free energy to heat themselves and create the non-British climatic conditions needed to nurture the plants.
The project was the first distillery and the first refurbishment project to receive a BREAAM ‘outstanding’ rating.