Nicholas Grimshaw has completed a factory in the English town of Melksham for American furniture brand Herman Miller, 40 years after designing the company's first UK production facility (+ slideshow).
The 15,794-square-metre factory features an L-shaped plan that provides the required volume, while reducing the amount of time it takes to travel from one side of the building to the other.
At the junction of the L-shape is a social area containing the reception and cafeteria. This open space receives natural light from circular skylights in its wooden ceiling and is enlivened by colourful walls and translucent glass surfaces.
Offices are located above the communal space in a volume that projects outwards at an angle from the side of the building, sheltering a terrace linked to the cafeteria inside.
The structure containing the offices features a rounded external wall clad in translucent glass, which lets light filter in and creates a glowing facade element at night.
Grimshaw's first collaboration with the company was in 1975, when the British architect was asked to design a manufacturing facility on the banks of the River Avon in Bath.
The Bath factory was given a Grade II listing because of its innovative modular construction and demountable facade system, which enables the external panels and windows to be interchanged depending on the activities taking pace inside.
Grimshaw also designed the Blue Building for Herman Miller in 1983, which is located in the town of Chippenham. It also features a flexible facade system comprising an interchangeable kit of pressed aluminium panels, windows and doors.
The architect of the famous bubble-shaped ecological park, the Eden Project, recently announced that his studio is to design a similar scheme in Qindao, China, and has completed a subway station and retail space in New York topped with a large glass and steel dome.
According to Grimshaw, the PortalMill factory is a continuation of some of the principles of workplace architecture he applied in his previous projects for the American firm.
"Herman Miller and I both share a unified approach to design and the built environment, so it was a pleasure to work with this revered company again," said Grimshaw at the building's opening ceremony.
"There are similarities between this building and the original I designed in the 1970s, with democracy of space key to the project and a social hub placed at the heart of the building."
Grimshaw's studio was responsible for the concept design on the project, which was developed by real estate firm First Industrial and built by Winvic, with Stephen George and Partners acting as the delivery architect.
The building consolidates Herman Miller's existing sites in Bath and Chippenham into a single facility, aimed at improving efficiency and enabling an expansion of the company's operational capabilities.
It will bring together wood processing, chair assembly, logistics, research and development and operations teams responsible for the firm's output in the UK, Europe and the Middle East.
Earlier this year, Herman Miller launched a reconfigurable office furniture system made from lightweight foam pieces and invited Dutch duo Scholten & Baijings to upholster some of its pieces in a fabric with a nine-metre repeat pattern.
Photography is by Craig Auckland/Fotohaus.