Industrial Architecture
Sir Nicholas Grimshaw (Grimshaw & Partners)


Nicholas Grimshaw

©Monica Pidgeon

I'm going to talk about industrial architecture today, and it will inevitably be a personal view as the buildings that I'll discuss are ones that I've been directly involved in myself since I set up in practice in 1965. I'm not going to describe the buildings each in detail, but to talk about several broad headings, and use the different buildings to illustrate these headings, six main themes: • The nuts and bolts side of industrial architecture and the way it goes together; • Secondly, the question of flexibility and adaptability; • Thirdly, the question of amenities, which is becoming an ever-increasing issue in our country; • Fourthly, the business of building industrial buildings without knowing who the user's going to be, buildings for an anonymous client; • The fifth issue, which again is very much a talking point at the moment, is the question of making industrial buildings fit into their environment; • And the sixth, the people working in the building; because, after all, they come first.


Bathroom Tower

©Farrell Grimshaw Partnership

Well, the first slide shows you, on the left, the first project that I started with, which was a service tower for eight students' hostel in Paddington, London, which set out to provide all the bathroom accommodation for a row of Victorian houses which we were converting. The houses hold two hundred students, and the one thing they were missing - apart from being in very bad structural repair - was any degree of servicing at all. My idea was to build this tower behind the buildings in the old back yards of the Victorian houses, which would provide all the bathroom accommodation. The tower is arranged around a mast, like a tower crane, and onto this mast are fitted whole fibreglass bathrooms which were delivered to the site in one piece. The bathrooms are accessed by a helical ramp which goes round the outside of them and connects back to the building at every floor. The idea of having this helix was that a student could enter the bathroom tower from any floor in the building and carry on going round the ramp until he found a bathroom which was free. This gave a much better distribution of bathrooms at peak hours, morning and evening. As far as the actual construction is concerned, this was very much a learning experience for me. I dealt directly with the fibreglass firm, the steel company, and all the other sub-contractors supplying components for this tower; and I co-ordinated the construction programme, since we had an Irish builder who had never seen anything like this before in his life. In fact, you can see me in that left hand slide staring anxiously at the first ramps being swung into position. The big experience that this really gave me was an understanding of the nuts and bolts of dry construction architecture and I think the building very much got me into the whole idea of constructing flexible industrial buildings in the future.

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