The essence of this project was the creation of an advanced electrical cable coating production facility for Pirelli. It is, in all aspects, an engineering project in an evolving urban landscape. When built it would be the tallest permanent structure in Southampton.
The principle challenge was to make an engineering production facility elegant and visually acceptable. Pirelli selected Ian Ritchie Architects through a selected competition for their the design and technical understanding and of the processes involved and to facilitate success. Pirelli were aware that they have to convince Southampton Council, Hampshire County Council, English Heritage, and the Royal Fine Art Commission of the aesthetic quality of the proposed structure, and to convince local amenity groups and public that such a structure will enhance the skyscape within the town and from distant views on clear days from the New Forest and the Isle of White across the water. Our role was to unlock the aesthetic conundrum through collaboration with Pirelli and their advisors, and to help make evident design quality with economy. Our contribution is vital at the early stages, and subservient to the pragmatic engineering design of the process itself.
The production facility will have three primary visible elements :
– a vertical structure about 90 metres high (CAA local limit), at the top of which is the main polymer processing facilities, control centre and cable winching equipment.
– vertical movement enclosures – lift for materials and personnel, and a protection tube(s) for the cable(s) – between the ground and the top of the tower.a ground level support building, principally for cable storage and handling.
– and one invisible part a shaft 30 metres deep into the ground which provides the additional length to enable the cable coating to have sufficient curing time before being fed into the ground support building.
The design has to achieve overall visual elegance.
The ground level building is visually less important to the general public, but not to the architectural composition and the strength of the aesthetic arguments which can be made in support of the overall design. We took the view that is far better to achieve an elegant design solution seen during the day, and to wait and see if the public demand it to be illuminated.
Pirelli’s Southampton production facility closed when Siemens bought Pirelli’s cable division in 1999.