GWP Architecture & Heatherwick Studio's Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery prepares to open to an eager public on 1 October
Over the past few days, crisp images of bulbous botanical glasshouses in southern England have appeared in UK broadsheets, showcasing what could easily be considered one of Thomas Heatherwick’s finest compositions to date.
The project in question is the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery in the village of Laverstoke, Hampshire. A former paper mill, the site originally comprised more than 40 ageing buildings used to produce bank notes, a number of which have since acquired listed status.
Heatherwick has worked with GWP Architecture to reconfigure the site, widening a river which meanders through the plot and crafting a modern adaptive reuse scheme worthy of this internationally acclaimed brand.
The existing masterplan was a patchwork of historic and more modern structures that had been added to year on year, resulting in a confusing site with no core focus point. Heatherwick Studio and GWP Architecture therefore inserted a central courtyard to tie the various elements of the site together.
The team’s project description reads: “The initial master plan brief had also included the creation of a visitor centre. However on seeing the vapour distillation process and the sculptural forms of the large copper gin stills, one of which is more than two hundred years old, we became convinced that witnessing the authentic distillation process would be far more interesting and memorable for a visitor than any simulated visitor experience.”
Instead of the planned visitor centre, the design team have opened up the production system to visitors and inserted a pair of intertwined botanical glasshouses within the courtyard.
Bombay Sapphire Gin is still made to a recipe devised in 1761 which involves infusing the gin with the vapours of ten tropical and Mediterranean herbs and spices. To further open up the production process to visitors, the design team has presented the opportunity for the company to grow these crucial herbs and spices onsite in Laverstoke.
Working with a team from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the design team has formed one glasshouse for tropical herbs and spices and another for the Mediterranean varieties, planted alongside more than a hundred additional species to provide the accompanying ecosystem required to maintain them.
The industrial vapour distillation process in itself produces waste heat that can now be diverted into the production of the necessary climate for the sustained growth of these plants. The distillery has been awarded an ‘outstanding’ BREEAM rating for its design, making it both the first distillery and the first refurbishment project to have ever been awarded this rating.