Back to the future
Sir Robert McAlpine
Norman Foster, a competent and passionate car collector as well as a world-acclaimed architect, the father of the archetypal contemporary car factory, the Renault works opened in Swindon in 1986, has now turned away from his more exuberant gestures of the past and, on a rural site near Woking, has designed an industrial complex whose image derives directly from the manufacturing process. Form follows as a consequence of function, resulting in both an industrial non-place and an architectural non-place as the building is designed to be entirely integrated into the landscape. To achieve this result, through a kind of architecture-in-reverse, it is the interiors that are assigned the leading role. The factory explores new avenues, offering an unforgettable experience for customers who have ordered not just a car but a truly unique item. Here customers don’t see their cars being built – they watch as they are born. Perhaps for this reason, the ambience is more reminiscent of a hospital clinic than a traditional car workshop. Ron Dennis, McLaren’s executive chairman, relates that amongst the requests made of the Foster team the most important was the need for the building to express the originality not only of McLaren’s approach to manufacturing but also of its way of thinking.
Rather than create a powerful initial impact, what was asked of the architecture was above all to convey a mental aftertaste.
Located in Woking in Surrey, just south-west of London, the McLaren Production Centre completes an industrial village that includes an underground visitor centre, a futuristic wind tunnel and the already famous Technology Centre, opened in 2004 and likewise designed by Foster+Partners.
The new building consists of a rectangular-plan structure extending over a covered area of 34,500 square metres. Inside it accommodates the production and assembly lines for the McLaren gran turismo road cars, including the new MP4-12C. The Technology Centre and the Production Centre are located close together and linked by a subterranean walkway. All the material excavated when building the foundations and the underground level (about 180,000 cubic metres) was kept on site and used to remodel the landscape, minimising the environmental impact of a building conceived according to the most advanced standards of energy efficiency.
The layout reflects the production flow. The lower level accommodates the storage areas and the production plants, while the upper level houses the lines where the cars are assembled, painted, finished and tested. The elevations and roof structures are made of steel, while the basement consists of concrete blocks on concrete foundations. The envelope, made from thermally insulated sandwich elements produced by Trimo, one of McLaren’s technical partners, consists of a double layer of panels forming a cavity that houses the service distribution lines. The services (compressed air, electricity, ventilation, communications, etc.) are housed not only in the envelope but also underneath the floor, in the false ceilings and in the casings that enclose the columns. The obsessive attention to detail made a real difference not just in terms of aesthetics and finish, but also from the perspective of costs and performance times. For example, the dimensions of the modular grid of the building’s structure where planned according to the size of the floor tiles (a surface area of 32,000 square metres) so as to optimise tile fixing and minimise waste. Here too the technological partnership between Pastorelli and McLaren achieved outstanding results. After supplying all the floor tiles for the adjacent Technology Centre, Pastorelli is now continuing its partnership with the carmaker, which involves supplying tiles not just to the new industrial facility in Woking but to all the McLaren Automotive showrooms in the world.
Pastorelli, MC2 and MC16
30x30 - 60x60 cm
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,5%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): UA ULA UHA
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): ≥ 45 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant