SOM Winner Serjeant Award
FLOWER FARM- AN EDIBLE OIL AND MARGARINE FACTORY
The brief was to design a flower farm on a given site, a plateau in Northamptonshire, mostly used for arable crops. Today only a few relics remain of the site ís history as a World War II airfield; its most characteristic is its exposure to wind and sunlight. Springs have carved two natural valleys on either side of the plateau, linked by a virtual line across the plateau.
The site ís exposed nature and adjoining watercourses suggested the design of a factory for edible oils and margarine. The architectural aim was to remake the landscape so that it, and the industrial process it was to accommodate, would be an organic part of each other.In this project a canyon is cut into the landscape, extending and connecting the two existing valleys, and accommodating the factory, which uses the existing spring as its water supply. The fields above grow rapeseed and sunflower, cultivated in annual rotation. Harvested, the oilseeds are taken to wind-drying racks which span the canyon, they drop gradually down into the factory for milling. The resultant oil flows slowly down an open conduit, an artificial river, at various stages of refinement being drawn off by gravity as crude oil, edible oil or margarine. The products are bottled or packed on the canyon ís bed, where they are loaded into lorries for dispatch. Close to the road a public centre is located which is linked by a pedestrian path with a motel on the other side of the road. The motel is embedded in the canyon ís slope slightly remote from the rest of the factory -a place for truck drivers and visitors to stay.Integrating the oil factory into arable land which provides its raw material allows a reinterpretation of both industrial and rural landscapes. There is no opposition, organisational or conceptual, between the processes which take place in the fields and those in the canyon. Both are artifice, both are nature - works of man, but dependent on the natural cycles of water, wind and the sun.
A primary concern of Christina Lill's graduate studio unit is the fact that the late twentieth century instinctively recoils from the architectural consequences of the new technologies and ways of living which it embraces. To propose a power station or motorway in open countryside, for instance, triggers a war of eighteenth-century abstractions in which Artifice and Progress are imagined to be pitted irreconcilably against Nature and the Conservative Virtues. The unit believes it is misleading and self-defeating to think in terms of such oppositions. Christina’s rural margarine factory (her own idea) was an unexpected but ideal response to this concern. She sought an architecture which would set the manmade and natural not in heroic opposition to each other, nor even polite juxtaposition, but would instead fuse the two categories together.
Her technology dissertation, which accompanied the project, investigates the economics of agri-business generally, and the mechanics of making margarine using the free resources of gravity, wind, water and sun. From this follows with impeccable logic every aspect of the project: the cutting of the canyon, its spanning by drying racks, the zig-zag fall of the yellow river of oil, the truck ramps. Particularly successful architecturally is the spatial development along its length of the canyons short section: an ever-changing composition of volumes, functional elements, and the light which - filtered by the racks above, or coloured by the oil in its transparent conduit - softly illumines the canyon ís banks and floor. The presentation of the project is remarkably well judged. A full set of elegant drawings and card models of the site and building display the precision of the spatial arrangement, while a computer-rendered fly-through movie shows us what it would be like to inhabit this richly various and luminous environment.
We believe this project combines intelligent strategy, formal innovation, a precise control of plan and section, and a refined but intense pleasure taken in the qualities of volume and light. It also succeeds in its originally-stated aim: to fuse the manmade and the natural.