Interior of Poppy Factory. Credit Nick Kane; Interior of Poppy Factory. Credit Nick Kane;

The Poppy Factory, London

Turning a collection of historic buildings into a cohesive home for a charity

The Poppy Factory has been supporting veterans with health conditions on their journey back into employment for 100 years. Arup partnered with architect Henley Halebrown to transform a cluster of disjointed buildings into an open and inclusive space where people come together.

The Poppy Factory began in 1922, offering veterans with mental and physical health conditions employment, producing Remembrance products for The Royal British Legion and the Royal Family. Today, the factory continues to make millions of poppies and provides employment support services that help change hundreds of veterans’ lives for the better every year.


Repurposing heritage buildings

Located on the old Lansdown Brewery site in Richmond, various building projects have been added over the decades, causing a disjointed collection of spaces. Our in-depth knowledge of historic construction methods made it possible to integrate discordant building systems from different eras into a unified architecture. 
The new scheme connects three existing buildings to form a single, barrier free landscape, including modern offices and a new visitor centre. This brings together workers and visitors, inspiring collaboration and community. The original art deco entrance building remains the heart of the site, illustrating the charity’s long heritage.

interior of poppy factory interior of poppy factory

In the absence of historic records, our insights enabled the extension, with increased loading and necessary demolition to enhance connectivity. With a tight budget and big aspirations, we simplified interventions and repurposed existing spaces wherever possible. This included turning part of the existing warehouse from a storage area into an inclusive office environment.

The new visitor experience will enable the charity to connect with guests in a more dynamic way, bringing history to life and showing how the charity helps transform veterans’ lives.


Creating sustainable comfort  

The addition of six timber roof lights allows daylight to penetrate deep inside the new offices and provides a controlled air path for natural ventilation. The geometry of the glazing has been calibrated to minimise direct sunlight to avoid overheating and glare. 

Together with openable windows, the timber roof lights form a natural ventilation system that optimises temperatures and air quality for wellbeing. This move away from a fully air-conditioned environment provides the most comfortable conditions for the lowest energy demand, contributing to our low carbon future. It passes all overheating tests defined by best practice guidelines. 

The production team, some of whom have worked at the factory for over 30 years, now have a refreshed and modernised working space. This new environment will enhance wellbeing for all who work within it and facilitate collaborative working across teams, empowering the charity to reach more wounded, injured and sick veterans. 

Our new offices and visitor experience in Richmond-upon-Thames provide an opportunity to share our history and present our work to a wider audience in a modern and dynamic setting. ” Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis President, The Poppy Factory