People like to do business with a well-dressed factory just as truly as they prefer to do business with well-dressed men.
The factory is its own most effective shop window, conveying an image of modernity or tradition, as required. The building can be an effective metaphor or it can suggest a corporate identity, intimated either by subliminal touches or by the most overt of signals.
Victorian eclectic architecture was a gift to an imaginative businessman, with a growing consumer market to reach. The Great Exhibition of 1851 showed that, to outshine the competition, manufacturers needed to resort to sheer exhibitionism. The imaginative application of exuberant ornament to factories led to a kind of commercial architecture parlante, arousing interest in the product and acting as a permanent free billboard.
The late eighteenth-century mill provided a functional envelope which then adapted to changes in working practice and advances in building technology. Impressive in scale, the unadorned cliffs of masonry, structural ironwork and ample glazing were efficient for their purpose, but each multi-storeyed building was largely indistinguishable from the next.
Marshalls, a long-established Leeds firm, was faced with heavy competition in a specialized area of the textile business, flax spinning. Astutely, it decided to play up the association of ancient Egypt with flax when it commissioned its latest mill around 1840.
Until then the Egyptian architectural revival had been confined to cemeteries and Masonic lodges.
The so-called Temple Mill, at Holbeck, was designed in 1842.1 Not surprisingly, the street frontage of Marshalls' newest mill proved to be a highly effective promotional weapon. Egyptian dress was extended to the new warehouse and the offices, the latter an innovation in themselves, since a free-standing adminis-
The factory served as an effective promotional device on elaborately designed company letterheads.
tration block pointed to the increasing complexity of factory management.
Although the commission for the new mill was initially given to the company engineer, James Combe, he knew little of the ornamental details of Egypt, so first David Roberts, the orientalist painter, and then Joseph Bonomi the younger, an Egyptologist who had spent more than eight years in the country, were brought in to assist. Later, in 1854, Owen Jones would call on Bonomi's expertise for the design of the Egyptian Court at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham in south-east London. Bonomi was the son of the architect of the same name and the son-in-law of the painter John Martin, whose apocalyptic history paintings showing scenes such as the Fall of Babylon or Pandemonium had been, he admitted, greatly influenced by the flaming kilns and furnaces of the Black Country and Tyneside.
The splendour of Egypt for Marshalls' flax mill, 'Temple Mill', Holbeck, near Leeds, West Yorkshire, 1842, engineer James Combe.
Bonomi designed a temple-fronted office block, based on the Temple of Edfu, while the factory alongside, built in stone and punctuated by eighteen vast windows with a characteristic projecting cornice above, was based upon the Temple of Dendara. In the interest of economy, the other less visible elevations were left quite plain and were remarkable only for their great length.
Not merely canny manufacturers, the Marshalls were also famously forward-looking.2 The choice of structure, external dress apart, was guided by a number of very practical considerations including cost and the need for overhead light, 'better and more uniform and ... no difficulty from shadows' and its advantage for the 'arrangement of work, overlooking etc . . .'. Thus, unusually for this date, the work space was single storeyed, its vaulted ceiling allowing for generous top lighting. This was a very early example
The immense interior of Marshalls' Mill, Holbeck, designed in the 1840s and photographed prior to its demolition, the workfloor lit by many dozens of glazed cupolas.
of what became a standard factory floor design, down to the repetitive grid of columns. To optimize the use of daylight, the roof was pierced by more than 60 glazed cupolas, some 14 feet (4.27 m) in diameter, looking, according to one contemporary description, 'like cucumber frames in a garden'. Each was topped with a valve, one of a number of devices to keep temperature and humidity levels under control.3
Bonomi, who in later life became the curator of Sir John Soane's Museum and who, through his father, had known Soane, must have been well aware of the architect's pioneering use of top lighting - both glazed cupolas and clerestories - in his domestic work, particularly in his own house on Lincoln's Inn Fields, and in the offices at the Bank of England and at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Possibly derived from those examples, the vast shed in Leeds -
A lunar landscape, the glazed cupolas above the workfloor at Marshalls' 'Temple' Mill, Holbeck. Originally the roof was grassed over and mown by sheep, until one fell through a rooflight.
demolished in the 1960s (the Egyptian offices survive) - had a reasonable claim to be the first top-lit industrial shed in the world.
Linen mills required stable temperatures, and this was achieved by insulating the roof with earth, to a depth of eight inches (20.32 cm). Seeded with grass, the meadow was kept neatly mown by sheep until an unfortunate incident, in which an animal fell to its doom on the machinery below, demonstrated the drawbacks of a rooftop pasture punctuated with skylights. Other matters were better considered: the turf undulated, enabling the run-off water to flow down into the hollow cast-iron columns below. The steam engines that powered the drive shafts were housed in the brick-vaulted basement and provided the heating that gave the necessary levels of warmth and humidity for the process. Inevitably, the original factory chimney at 'Temple' Mill was an Egyptian obelisk. After cracking in 1852, it was replaced by a more conventional, and no doubt more practical, chimney.
Nor was the Egyptian theme confined to the exterior. Bonomi delighted in the decorative potential of the style. On the factory floor, the iron columns were topped by palm- and papyrus-leaf capitals, while the beam engine was ornamented by appropriately Egyptian pylons and a regulator in the form of a winged solar disc.4 A model of this engine was displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, another effective forum for publicity for manufacturers among both their peers and the public.
The mill even found its place in fiction, and John Marshall was generally considered to be one of the models for the composite figure of Mr Trafford in Disraeli's Sybil (1845). The writer was fascinated by the novel arrangements, noting that the mill was one of the marvels of the district; one might almost say of the country: a single room, spreading over nearly two acres, and holding more than two thousand workpeople. The roof of groined arches, lighted by ventilating domes at the height of eighteen feet, was supported by hollow cast-iron columns, through which the drainage of the roof was effected.
He compared the usual low-ceilinged workrooms in storeyed factories. 'At Mr Trafford's, by an ingenious process, not unlike that which is practised in the House of Commons, the ventilation was also carried on from below, so that the whole building was kept at a steady temperature, and little susceptible to atmospheric influences.' The arrangement, Disraeli added, benefited the workforce and gave ease of movement, cut down accidents and permitted 'superior inspection and general observation'.5
The unique features of the mill meant that it quickly became well known, through admiring reports in the professional and technical journals. Such magazines provided useful and detailed information on the design, technology and operation of new factories, as well as listing hundreds of newly patented devices in every issue. The exchange of ideas and experience between manufacturers took place largely on paper.
For those with more conventional premises, the huge industrial chimney stack was the nineteenth-century equivalent to a neon sign or flamboyant logo. In the freewheeling spirit of Victorian eclecticism, Robert Rawlinson's book, Boiler and Factory Chimneys (1877), discussed the architectural possibilities. However dour the mill or factory, it could still flaunt itself with a soaring columnar chimney, detailed according to an array of historical styles, the elaboration usually reaching a crescendo at the very top. Patterned or polychrome brick, terracotta or ceramic panels, battlements and lavish ornament brought much needed colour to the monochrome scenery of
Victorian textile towns. There was a continual race to erect a yet taller chimney. For a time the record was held by a Manchester printing works, Schwabe's, whose chimney soared to 321 feet (97.8 m) - well above the heads of all its competitors, the Petronas Towers of its day.
Late nineteenth-century businesses enjoyed establishing a link between their buildings and their products. Doulton marketed their goods very overtly: their Lambeth factory was encrusted with ceramics. Similarly there was an inescapable commercial logic in dressing Templeton's Glasgow carpet factory in the glowing colours, textures and motifs of a Byzantine Gothic palace, from the pages of John Ruskin's Stones of Venice (1851-3). William Leiper's exuberant design, built in 1889 overlooking Glasgow Green, in which colour and pattern are marshalled to powerful effect, sits well in Glasgow alongside neighbours in the Greek, Italian Renaissance and Gothic styles.
The design of Templeton's factory is unambiguously based upon
that of an oriental carpet. The theme is played out energetically in a frieze of multicoloured faience set into an Italian Renaissance zig-zagging bargello pattern surmounted by a defensive-looking cresting of brick machicolations. In the centre of the main elevation is an upper-level loggia, and corbelled turrets rhythmically mark out the full width. According to Leiper's architectural partner, the decision to pursue the Byzantine style came from the clients, who 'as patrons of the arts, resolved not alone in the interests of the workers, but also of the citizens, to erect instead of the ordinary and common factory something of permanent architectural interest and beauty'.6
The visibility of the building was, no doubt, a prompt to the
Eclectic and eyecatching architecture ensured notice for Templeton's Glasgow carpet factory and its products.
comfortable classes of Glasgow, contemplating the purchase of Turkish-patterned carpets for their new suburban houses.
An impressive image of a factory, usually in the form of a somewhat idealized bird's-eye view of the works, often headed company stationery, packaging and advertising material, acting as a cost-effective form of publicity before widespread commercial advertising. Breweries made sure that their buildings decorated the labels of their bottles; Carlsberg's gate supported by elephants at their main Copenhagen plant was unforgettable. Carreras cigar boxes were decorated with the Baroque swirls and curlicues of the Seville royal factory, a point underlined by the fact that it was the setting for Bizet's popular opera of the 1870s, Carmen. In Dresden, the Yenidze cigarette factory of 1907 was built to look like a mosque, with minarets and dome, a strong message about the oriental exoticism of tobacco. 'Day and night, during profitable and unprofitable business hours, this building is an advertisement for the owner, at no cost to the publicity account.'7
The ornamented pediment of the administration block of Argyll Motors at Alexandria, near Glasgow, similarly made the point. A carved Argyll car bursts through the stonework, accompanied by goddesses of speed with their robes caught in the slipstream and by handsomely idealized workers bearing the attributes of their trade, such as an anvil and gear wheel. The automobile was, for a few years, an expensive (often unreliable) handcrafted item, a fact that was reflected in an architectural approach more fit for a bank than a factory.
Charles Halley, a local architect, built the 760-foot-long (231.6 m) administration block in the Baroque Revival style, a luxurious, well-crafted building to match the vehicles. The local red sandstone is banded and rusticated, with balustrades and a gigantic
ornamented central tower, offering a reassuring sense of enduring qualities, well suited to the expensive end of automobile manufacture. Inside, the managing director presided from Georgian-style offices, while an Elizabethan Revival boardroom was provided for the directors.8 Each worker had a numbered washbasin of his own. For the company, 'The few extra hundreds required to provide a motor factory second to none in the world have been repaid already and with interest, by the very advertisement that such a building is in itself.'
At the opposite extreme was Carl Benscheidt who, when he built the Fagus factory in 1911 to manufacture wooden shoe-lasts, was eager to use progressive design to flag up the new technology and progressive nature of his American-funded business. As we
A vehicle bursts through the pediment, accompanied by figures with appropriate attributes. The Argyll Motors car factory, Alexandria, near Glasgow, 1905-6, architect Charles Halley.
have seen, Adolf Meyer and Walter Gropius provided an image of transparency and structural daring for an expanding business. Clearly visible from the busy railway line that ran through the small town of Alfeld in lower Saxony, people could immediately grasp from the unfamiliar architecture, the clean lines and modern materials that this was no traditional factory. By implication, the business was highly innovative, while the accuracy and quality of the product were implicit in the sharp, precise forms. Shortly after the first phase had been completed, an admiring article was published in Der Industriebau, emphasizing the revolutionary aspects of the building. Benscheidt ordered 1,500 offprints of the article, to distribute to clients. He knew that 'an exemplary building could also be an excellent advertisement'.
Publicity was also generated by first-hand knowledge. In the nineteenth century it had become commonplace to offer tours of works to interested visitors, just as their grandparents might have taken in a trip to Coalbrookdale or the Soho Manufactory on a Picturesque journey towards the Wye Valley or North Wales. Factory visits offered an opportunity to interest potential employees as well as to sound out markets. High above the Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam, customers could try the company's coffee, tea and cocoa in a glass-walled, cantilevered tearoom, or survey the city skyline from a nautical-styled observation terrace above, while visitors were always made welcome at Spirella's 'Castle Corset' in Letchworth Garden City. Even today, the Avent factory (2000) for baby products in rural Suffolk encourages local health visitors to visit the works, where they can wonder at the million-pound injection moulding machines that press four vacuum-packed bottles out of silicon grains every twelve seconds. Seven of these machines cost almost twice as much as the smart new building by Fletcher Priest Architects, a portal frame clad with sinuous profiled steel panels and full-height glazing, through which passers-by can see the machines toiling futuristically. As a replacement for the huddle of 1930s and '70s sheds and warehouses that stood on the site, Avent considers its new factory to be the best possible asset, for publicity as for everything else.9
The car manufacturer Citroën made the most of its location in east-central Paris, where the Javel plant occupied a huge swathe of the left bank of the Seine, just down-river from the Eiffel Tower. In the late 1920s there was no escaping Citroën's pre-eminence as the major French motor manufacturer. André Citroën had started with a daily production of thirty 10cv vehicles in 1919, but just eight years later the daily output had risen to four hundred.10
The public was invited to visit the factory and a book was produced to celebrate the factories and their breathtaking scale, covering some 77 hectares by 1929. The employees enjoyed a progressive regime that provided them with benefits from calisthenics to crèches.
The model for the manufacturing system had, inevitably, come from the USA, where senior executives from Citroën, with their counterparts from Benz, Renault and Fiat among others, had gone to investigate the methods of Taylor and Ford and, on return, had introduced their own assembly-line systems, emulating Michigan. André Citroën was quick to realize the advantages of a strong corporate identity and brought his flair to the design of the dealerships and service centres, all smartly and distinctively styled. Citroën's factories and garages built up a strong corporate image, much as did Bata's elegant city stores in their easily recognizable Modern Movement company livery.
Citroën's cars were for sale to the widest possible public, being lightweight and cheap. The market for motor cars was potentially limitless, if still untried in Europe, and the sophisticated Citroën publicity machine took maximum advantage of stylish events such as the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs of 1925 and epoch-making moments such as Charles Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic in 1927. These culminated in Citroën's own epic international motor safaris, beginning with the Saharan Croisière Noire (1925), then one to the South Pole in 1927 and in 1931 from Beirut to Beijing.
Ford, too, was highly alert to the possibilities of publicity for its world-beating enterprise. The most impressive product the company had to sell was Henry Ford himself, and his thoughts, dreams and achievements, with which came his unpalatable views on race and society. Despite this, Mr Ford proved endlessly marketable. The Ford company dealt only in a relentless roll-call of records and superlatives. In 1913 a newsreel showed the new moving production line at Highland Park in action (the first in the world) and 12,000 of the workforce posed for a group photograph (the largest ever), a companion shot to that showing the day's production of Model Ts. Tens of thousands of visitors came each year to see the plants, first to Highland Park (the largest automobile plant in the world) and then to the integrated plant at River Rouge, which by 1929 employed 103,000 workers on a site unrivalled anywhere in the world except for the Krupp works at Essen in Germany.
At the Rouge plant metaphor was piled upon metaphor: 'each unit . . . a carefully designed gear which meshes with other gears and operated in synchronism with them, the whole forming one huge, perfectly-timed, smoothly operating industrial machine of almost unbelievable efficiency.'11 In 1927 Charles Sheeler was commissioned to photograph the plant, and the resulting images, reinforced by the powerful murals that the company president Edsel Ford commissioned from Diego Rivera for the Detroit Institute of Arts, showed the potential of a mechanistic figurative vocabulary. Frida Kahlo, Rivera's wife, painted her self-portrait in 1932, and set herself against two monolithic landscapes, one her native Mexico, one Ford's and Kahn's River Rouge. In a demure white muslin dress but with a cigarette in hand, she straddles the two worlds that a modern, independent woman of the time confronted.12 Very early at the Faguswerk, the Benscheidts had used photography for various purposes. From the beginning, they commissioned construction shots of the building, partly to keep their American financial partners informed of progress. Edmund Lill, who was selected by Gropius for the job, photographed the buildings in 1912 and then, after their long delayed completion, again in 1922. Another photographer, Albert Renger-Patzsch (also blessed by Gropius), took a further series in 1928 which included both the products and the industrial process, machines and unusual but selective details of the buildings. Nothing that detracted from the notion of'form following function and construction' was included. These images were widely used in the company's international advertising campaigns, as well as in the architect's energetic campaign to present the building as the first structure of the 'new architecture', as it was epitomized in the catalogue to Gropius's Berlin exhibition of 1930.13
Such industrial commissions, as well as being an enduring and powerful form of public relations exercise, pointed to the notion of business patronage of the arts and, from it, the rewards of corporate sponsorship.
If the factory might serve as a sales vehicle, so too could the model village. Henry Ford's Greenfield Village at Dearborn was an architectural cabinet of curiosities, heritage bits and pieces collected from everywhere and designed for the publicity purposes of the company. Centre stage were shrines to the industrial past in the shape of reconstructed workshops of heroes such as Thomas Edison and Ford himself.
Lord Leverhulme's Port Sunlight was an industrial village but, bearing the name of his soap bar, it also offered an excellent publicity vehicle. The widely publicized philanthropic efforts of its founder, together with the charming name and obvious image of domestic cleanliness, were no doubt a considerable factor in the buoyant sales that the company quickly established in the early 1900s. In cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac of traditional-style cottages with all modern conveniences, the squeaky-clean windows, freshly laundered nets and well-scrubbed doorsteps were clear evidence of the effective use of foaming Sunlight suds. The daily lives of Lord Leverhulme's workforce and their families were a constant advertisement for the efficacy of his products.
In the inter-war period, the London Brick Company in Bedfordshire made their self-evident point with a brick-built garden village, overshadowed by clusters of factory chimneys emblazoned with the company acronym. Crittalls, manufacturers of the eponymous metal windows, seized a similar advantage when they built their factory at Silver End near Witham in Essex and developed a model industrial village around it. All the houses, whether polite neo-Georgian brick cottages or improbable Modern Movement houses, flat-roofed, rendered and whitewashed, bravely bright against the repetitive Essex landscape, were fitted with the windows that came out of the factory gates a few metres away. At Kirk Sandall in South Yorkshire, a garden village built for employees of the Pilkington glass company, the hotel, designed in 1934, celebrated the firm's latest acquisition, Vitrolite, an American company making glass-cladding material. Bands of black, shell-pink, pearl and turquoise celebrated its decorative potential on the exterior, while indoors the theme continued: now in subtle blues, greens and ivory with black and green pressed-glass floor tiles underfoot.14
Chimneys emblazoned with the initials of the London Brick Company overshadow the company village at Stewartby, Bedfordshire. Architect E. Vincent Harris, 1927 onwards.
Semi-detached workers' cottages with steel windows, factory village for Crittalls windows manufacture. Silver End, near Witham, Essex, architect Sir Thomas Tait, 1926-32.
Fort Dunlop, manufacturing motor tyres, ensured that it caught the eye of every driver heading to Birmingham past its brick industrial castle. During the First World War, funding was secured and planning began for a new system of arterial roads around London. Then as now, alterations to major roads heralded a development opportunity, and in west Middlesex the opportunity opened for a huge industrial expansion, much of which, though changed in function and appearance, remains.
In wartime, the rapid building of dozens of new munitions factories had revolutionized notions of the possible: concrete, steel and electricity had come of age. In 1916 Thomas Wallis, who had begun the war in the Office of Works, set up the architectural practice of Wallis, Gilbert & Partners (there was never a Gilbert) in collaboration with Truscon, combining the advantages of in-house engineering expertise and the freedom to advertise and seek out
A manager's detached house, Silver End, with a full range of Crittall windows.
new clients - commercial activities forbidden to the architectural profession.15
For ten years the practice worked closely with Truscon, building major factories such as the General Electric Co. Ltd, on Electric Avenue at Witton outside Birmingham (fronted by an Egyptian-detailed administration building), and the Wrigley Products factory of 1926 in North Wembley, where mushroom columns and slabs replaced a post-and-beam structure.
The rebuilding of the post-war economy in the late 1920s was a boon to those American companies looking for a break into the European market for consumer goods. Britain was their bridgehead and allowed them to get round the Tariff Act of 1927. The new arterial roads offered ease of distribution; planning controls were scant on the adjacent greenfield sites; and the increased flexibility offered by a now-reliable electricity supply meant that factories had virtual freedom of location. Unchecked suburban expansion also meant that a new workforce was at hand.
In the late 1920s factory-boom companies streamed into areas to the north-west and west of London such as Wembley, Park Royal, Ealing and Perivale. Freed from backstreet obscur-ity, in the case of an existing company such as Smith's Potato Crisps in Cricklewood, they were now ideally sited to catch the eye of thousands of potential customers as the droves of passing motorists took the Great West Road and other main routes in or out of town. An entirely new range of products for kitchen, home and garage appeared in front of an increasingly affluent public.
Most companies built their administrative headquarters alongside factories, an American practice. The architectural choice was generally the Moderne style, concrete-rendered and painted white, colourfully ornamented with Art-Deco-derived trim. The
area became a 'roadside gallery of modern architecture'.16 Thomas Wallis's 'Fancy' factories attracted a great deal of critical opprobrium from his professional peers, but pleased the public with their colourful façades designed to look more like cinemas than factories. Jostling on the kerbsides were dozens of exuberant frontages, but those of Firestone and Hoover - both designed by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners - particularly caught the spirit of the Jazz Age.
The Firestone factory was an American commission. When Harvey Firestone built his works at Akron, Ohio, in 1910 - to cope with the huge orders required by the Ford Motor Company - he mapped out the manufacturing process with a model and a piece of string. Seventeen years later Firestone decided to build a manu-
The Art Deco Hoover factory, built to attract the eye of passing motorists on Western Avenue in west London. Now converted to corporate headquarters and supermarket. 1932-5, architects Wallis, Gilbert & Partners.
facturing and distribution plant in Britain and turned to Thomas Wallis. For publicity purposes the speed of the building operation, despite its efficiency, was greatly exaggerated.
The gleaming white Firestone administration block stood back and above the level of the road, the stage for a building that, with its columned façade and its brilliantly coloured ceramic ornament in the Egyptian style, had a powerful theatrical presence. The faience details were the first to be picked off by the wrecker's ball as demolition began on August Bank Holiday Monday in 1980.
Behind the administration building stretched a series of linked blocks: first a classic single-storeyed Kahn-type factory with generous fenestration and north lights, then behind it a four-storey block for departments dealing with the receipt and despatch of goods. At the extremity of the sequence was the power house, picking up the ornament of the front elevation. The floors and
The demolition (August 1980) of the administration block of the Firestone Tyre & Rubber Company factory the handsomest of Wallis, Gilbert & Partners' Art Deco factories on the Great West Road, London.
foundations were of reinforced concrete, the frame of steel, clad in concrete with brick and glass panels.
Thomas Wallis considered that colour had a beneficial effect on the workers and that they would take pride in the fact that their place of work was a recognizable landmark. He was also fully aware of the advertising potential, the wisdom of 'a little money spent on something to focus the attention of the public', which would 'give proportionately better results than that obtained from the large yearly expenditure so often incurred in usual advertising'.17
In their house journal, Curry's, manufacturers of cycles and radios, trumpeted the 'incalculable' publicity value of their location on the Great West Road, 'which will advertise Curry's to the world'. Like many of their neighbours, Curry's floodlit the roadside elevation and tower of their building in exuberant fashion. So too did Hoover, from 1932 onwards Wallis, Gilbert & Partners' latest clients, with a site on Western Avenue. The most exuberant of the nine 'fancy' factories, its colourful eclectic façade appeared on all kinds of promotional items for the company, while from the rear no railway passenger could miss the neon-lit legend 'Hoover beats as it sweeps as it cleans'. The heavily faceted and ornamental elevation of the Hoover building, like that of the Firestone factory, might have been designed expressly to be lit up by night. Like Mendelsohn's Petersdorff department store in Breslau of 1928, which emphasized the effects with external strip lighting and white curtaining, illumination and shadow dramatized the forms of the Hoover building, giving local people and passers-by a continuous show, the twentieth-century version of the blazing banks of windows in the early gas-lit mills.
Eventually the riot of exhibitionist architecture became, like the exhibits at the Great Exhibition, self-defeating. In the later 1930s
A return to brick and sobriety; the Gillette factory Great West Road, London, 1930s, architect Banister Fletcher.
The Great Workroom at the Johnson Wax factory, Racine, Wisconsin. Light enters above the dendriform capitals in a luminous building designed to celebrate the virtues of polish. 1936-9, architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Gillette and Guinness Breweries, both located in the same area of west London, decided upon a more sober approach, using plain English brick and employing, respectively, two respected architects, Banister Fletcher and Giles Gilbert Scott, who proved adept at paring down Classical and ornamental elements to the minimum in their stately additions to the industrial landscape.
Streamlined modernity was a great antidote to the Depression. Architecturally, it seemed confident and progressive, or, in Frank Lloyd Wright's ringing phrase, 'sure of itself and clean for its purpose, clean as a hound's tooth'. At his Johnson Wax administration building at Racine, Wisconsin, horizontality - brickwork with strands of crystal tubing laid through it at intervals and as clerestory lighting - gave a suitably shiny, glittery image to the headquarters of a polishing empire which 'became a different company the day the building opened. We achieved international attention because that building represented and symbolized the quality of everything we did in terms of products, people, the working environment . . . '.18 Inside, the spectacular Great Workroom was supported upon dendriform columns, a mere 9 inches (22.86 cm) in diameter at their base, spreading to a 20-foot (6.09 m) fan upon the roof, with light pouring down around the edges. After the war, Wright added the even sleeker Research Tower, in which broader bands of glass tubes dominated narrower strips of brickwork, forming, as the architect saw it, a torch to illuminate the business around the world. Such potent images were well served by the contemporary growth of photojournalism. Johnson Wax could not have bought the newspaper and magazine publicity that their building gave them for 'two or more millions of dollars', as Wright put it.19 In downtown Los Angeles, the Coca-Cola bottling plant assumed the guise of a great ocean liner, complete with port-holes and upper deck. Each corner was marked by a huge, instantly recognizable
A huge bottle helps to identify the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, Los Angeles, 1936-7, architect Robert V. Derrah.
bottle, expressing the unquenchable optimism of the makers of America's favourite beverage.
The modern business, its product exhaustively advertised in the media, is less excited about such exposure, but contemporary imagery still retains a strong pull, despite its tendency to date and suggest the fashions of yesterday. Foster Associates' Renault Distribution centre of 1983 outside Swindon, more warehouse than factory, quickly became the stylish backdrop to many of their advertising campaigns - its cabling and pierced metal web acting out the form of a tent. Design-led companies are, obviously, much concerned with the architecture of their factories and, on occasion, prove faithful clients to their architects. In 1976 the leading furniture makers Herman Miller had commissioned an elegantly clad
shed from Nicholas Grimshaw in Bath and, a few years later, a distribution centre based on the same structural system, but with different cladding, at Chippenham in Wiltshire.
Another furniture company, Vitra, near Basle in Switzerland, also commissioned a steel-clad shed from Grimshaw and then surrounded it by an entire menagerie of'signature' buildings. Like a variant on Henry Ford's collection of old buildings shipped into Greenfield from the Cotswolds and other places equally far away, the collection includes a 'fire station' by Zaha Hadid, a 'factory' by Frank Gehry and a conference centre by Tadao Ando. Now Ando has designed a new Benetton factory at Treviso in northern Italy. The name of an internationally known architect generates useful column inches in design-conscious publications and, as ever, free advertising.
Aiming at a less elite audience, functional forms, such as the masts and tension cables that usefully support wide-span roofs
The use of colour, exposed Meccano-like elements and the very visible masts ensured that Foster & Partners' 1983 Renault Distribution Centre at Swindon, Wiltshire, became a useful tool within Renault's advertising strategy.
The Vitra 'factory' near Basle, Switzerland, was never likely to become a workplace. However, Vitra as a furniture-design company benefited from the attention given to Frank Gehry's 1987 building and its companions in what has become a museum of architecture.
The undulating roof structure of Valode & Pistre's L'Oreal cosmetics factory, Aulnay-sous-Bois, France, of 1988-91 floats above its setting in an unprepossessing industrial suburb, ensuring that it is as prominent from the air as from the ground.
With their Funder factory at St Veit, of 1988-9, the Austrian practice Coop Himmelblau has demonstrated that a boardworks can be as eyecatching as a contemporary art museum.
and efficiently create uninterrupted interior space, are also effective eye-catchers. With sites prominent in the landscape or along a motorway, even from the air, leading European firms such as Benetton (Treviso), l'Oreal (Aulnay-sous-Bois), and Igus (Cologne) have all benefited from their visibility - challenging the anonymity of the sleek shed.
The Igus factory (1992) is for a company making injection-moulded plastics and embodies all the most progressive ideas towards flexibility, modern working practice and tradition (the last consisting of natural top lighting and ventilation through domes -invoking the shades of Marshalls Mill in Leeds). Nicholas Grimshaw, chosen as architect on the basis of his track record with panelled industrial buildings over the previous two decades, defended the two ostentatious yellow masts that tower above the slick metal shed: 'I make no apology for [their] powerful impact . . . I believe they give the project a great image and excitement'.20 The engineers, Whitby & Bird, might prefer to emphasize the real innovations, the demountable office 'pods' and other portable elements that are buried deep and unseen within the clear span, airport-terminal-sized shed.
For more self-effacing times, the factory built in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in the late 1990s by Chris Wilkinson Architects for Dyson's revolutionary vacuum cleaner and washing machine plant has a quieter profile, with a pacific, undulating roofline rippling through the landscape. Hardly had it opened, than much of the production was forced to move to the Far East because of labour costs.
Yet, in a move that bucks every current trend, in the New Year of 2002 the car manufacturers Volkswagen moved into their just-completed crystal palace, the Glaeserne Manufaktur, set in parkland in the centre of Dresden. In a sparkling vehicle
assembly plant, designed by Henn architects, the newest model VW (the Phaeton) is put together from parts brought in by freight-train from factories elsewhere, and the finished product is then displayed in a twelve-storey glass tower to full public gaze.21 For once, the manufacturing process is back in sight and industry is right at the centre of the city: James Watt would surely approve.
The Dyson vacuum cleaner factory Malmesbury, Wiltshire, completed in 1999, architect Chris Wilkinson. A brave stab at retaining manufacture in Britain, despite which, much of the production now takes place in the Far East.
The Volkswagen 'Transparent Factory' near Dresden, 1999-2001. Clean manufacture returns to the city in the 21st century. Architect and engineer, Henn Architects.
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