Bombay Sapphire is in the process of converting a historic paper mill into a facility for producing their famous gin. Overseeing this transformation is the ever-busy Heatherwick Studio, which has been brought on to renovate the 40 derelict buildings found on the site. Their most drastic intervention to the extant campus comes in the form of a soon-to-opened visitor’s center that was recently awarded a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating for sustainability, an international system for ranking green buildings.
The building is composed of the original structure and two new large glass outgrowths that are seemingly blown out of its interior and into a surrounding body of water. These alien forms are, in fact, drawn from the shapes of the curvaceous copper stills traditionally employed in gin distillation. One temperate, the other humid, the two greenhouses are populated by the various botanicals incorporated into gin production. The glass additions sit partially in the shallows of the River Test that snakes through the entirety of the mill.
Integrated photovoltaic cells, a biomass boiler for recycling organic matter, and energy-producing water turbines all contribute to the center’s elevated BREEAM status. The watery foundations of the greenhouses are indicative of Heatherwick’s attempts to emphasize the role of the river in their refurbishment of the site. The firm hopes to increase the Test’s visibility while using it as an organizational device for traversing the numerous buildings in the facility.