The historic Laverstoke Mill first mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086, has been renovated to create a state-of-the-art distillery and visitor centre for Bombay Sapphire gin.  

Located in rural Hampshire, the distillery features two cascading glasshouses which are central to the visitor experience. The structures have pushed the boundaries of engineering design to sit elegantly alongside the mill, housing the botanicals used in the production of gin.

In collaboration with the project’s architect, Heatherwick Studio, we employed geometrical optimisation, structural and detail design of the glass façade of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery. The greenhouse-style structures demonstrate a unique and innovative approach of employing curved glass as a structural component. 

The larger glasshouse, standing at 15m tall and 11m in diameter, houses botanicals usually found in the Mediterranean. The second, 10m tall and 9m in diameter, houses plants native to tropical environments.

Creating iconic structures from glass

Our materials experts and structural engineers worked collaboratively with the architect and the contractor, Bellapart, to realise the design for the curved glass and steel glasshouses. Each dome consists of 31 pleated sections of glass that glide from the bottom of the structure to twist and narrow as they reach the adjacent building. 

The complex, self-supporting glass and steel structures give visitors the impression of standing inside a spiralling vortex. The sense of movement is accentuated by the flow of warm air pumped in from the distillery and carrying the scent of exotic plants that circulates through the spaces.

Solving complex design challenges

Using advanced numerical modelling and simulation, we guided and verified the glasshouses’ detailed design, allowing for the ‘flowlines’ of steel to be supported by the pleated structure of curved glass. The glass façade takes most of the load and transfers the weight to the foundations, allowing the amount of steel used to be reduced. 

Parametric modelling and the sharing of 3D information was an important element of the design process, breaking down the complexity of the glasshouses into a series of solvable steps. The curved and twisted L-shaped steel profiles that form continuous ‘flow lines’ are made of laser cut stainless steel plates linked by a series of metal connectors in a staggered manner. The steel plate shapes, connector geometry and curved glass were directly derived from the 3D model.

Resilient materials and manufacturing

The hot and humid conditions within the domes risked placing strain on the materials over time. We specified the use of durable materials such as corrosion resistant alloys and structural laminating material between the layers of glass to create resilient structures that could withstand the potentially challenging environment.

From the outset it was clear the ambitious design would challenge conventional manufacturing and building techniques. Our materials experts advised on the complex material production technology required to fulfil the architects’ vision, and we engaged with potential materials suppliers to verify whether the unique glass shapes that the design demanded could be produced, regularly seeking feedback on feasibility and pricing from contactors before going to tender.

Award wins

  • Outstanding Façade Innovation - Society of Façade Engineering FAÇADE2015