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Glasgow Institute of Architects SMALL PRACTICE winner 2013
Visitors Centre in Dumfries

Visitors Centre in Dumfries

Annandale Distillery Company was set-up in 2007 to purchase the long-derelict (Category B listed) Annandale Distillery (closed in 1919) and re-commence the distillation of ‘Annandale Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky’. Phase 1 of the project (Distillery and temporary visitors’ centre) has started.

It is projected that whisky production should commence during the Summer of 2012, although credible/saleable whisky will not be available until 2016 at the very earliest. For this reason, the business model assumes a strong, early contribution from visitor activity. A feasibility study was commissioned to embed high performance sustainable construction products and applications, within the development of the Visitor Centre and visitor experience. Visitor numbers are conservatively estimated as 10,000/annum for 2013, rising to at least 25,000/annum when the new visitors’ facility is established. For the future, a new concept is proposed to integrate the site archaeology with the visitor experience. Preservation and integration of the archaeological relics, as proposed, will add to the uniqueness of Annandale Distillery, further increasing its attractiveness to whisky enthusiasts and tourists. We know of no other similar archaeology in a Scotch whisky distillery. All of this is innovative from the company’s perspective.

Proposals investigated how the visitor might access and travel through the site on a visually stimulating route. The access into the site from a new car park sets up one arrival route through the field edge and along the east side of the bonded warehouse. Extension of the existing buildings was not seen as desirable so the design idea is to create a ‘free-standing’ building. The location of the new building was chosen not to impact on the courtyard setting so pushes the new building into the woodland edge to the north…

Elevated walkways to provide safe access through the site with views of the archeological remains are part of the visitor experience. A low environmental impact building with a soft touch on the woodland setting can be achieved by elevating a building on columns. It is assumed that the woodland edge would be planted up to the south to reinforce the woodland setting and replace any trees lost through construction.

The new building is elevated with ramped access and south facing cafe terrace extending into a ramp over the archeological remains. The siting of the building is in the woodland, reducing the impact of the new building on the courtyard setting. The simple arced form of the building is similar to that of the Annandale logo echoing ship sails with a huge gentle sweeping edge. A large cafe terrace to the south offers views through the woods to the courtyard. The whisky tasting room is detached and sits to the south side of the new building off of the terrace creating a gateway effect onto the terrace and offers views of the courtyard through trees from within. Walls of glass wrap around the external edge of the building with a zinc gull-wing roof above that opens up to the courtyard on one side from the cafe and woodland on the other from the exhibition space.

The proposed building option is flexible and could grow or contract according to brief and budget constraints. Locating the building within the woodland edge will not be easy without significant disruption to the woodland and streams. The designs have been considered with this in mind and with a view of creating as much as possible off site. Potentially prefabricated walls and floors could be inserted into the woodland by crane onto pre-formed stilts. The location of the building in this area will not impact on the working of the distillery while under construction. It will not damage the special courtyard setting instead it will enhance it and provide a unique visitor experience effortlessly linking the promenade route into the archeological remains. The solution can be taken in various design directions in a variety of finishes and is presented to show the possibilities of what an engaging and dynamic visitor experience could be.

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