It’s rare that you’d compare a factory to a fine yacht, but at Vitsœ’s new Royal Leamington Spa factory, the two are synonymous.
Vitsœ, of course, is the furniture company that’s best known for producing furnishings from the legendary designer Dieter Rams for the past half-century, including his renowned 606 Universal Shelving System. For its new 36,000-square-foot factory, where those shelves will be produced, the company brought in Martin Francis–a marine architect and super-yacht designer–to conceptualize the design.
The resulting building is a mash-up between a piece of furniture and a boat. Though it’s actually smaller than many of the yachts that Francis has designed, you can see the nautical influence across the building’s walls and ceiling. Much like the wooden slats of a ship’s hull, laminate-veneer lumber makes up the inner walls, ceiling, and beams. The joints supporting it are mechanical though, much like you might see on a desk.
Functionally, the 442-foot-long interior is intended to be rearranged and restaged modularly, just like the 606 storage system itself. (“A building is certainly more complicated, but through determination and an iterative process, we’ve ended up with a clear, simple, elegant design which reflects Vitsœ’s products,” engineer Mark Skelly said in a story published by Vitsoe.) However, the real beauty of the space is created by all of the light. Despite that it’s a factory, which requires high brightness for workers, the space is entirely lit by the sun during the day, even when skies are overcast, thanks to a variegating roof of skylights that provide a consistent 1,000 lux. That’s a typical outdoor light level, inside.
The same dream of working outside while indoors was shared by the now-defunct Google campus design by BIG and Thomas Heatherwick, which featured a clear fabric frame to create the feeling. Is it rude to say I prefer the austere implementation of wood and glass over the circus tent aesthetic?