A tonic without the gas

Style and safety combine in Beefeater distillery’s slimline top-up

Solving Beefeater's visitor problem.
Solving Beefeater's visitor problem. · Credit: Paul Riddle

Gin and gas define this intervention from Edinburgh-based Lee Boyd at the Beefeater Distillery in Kennington, south London. Working with designer Four-by-Two the practice was brought in to link the two buildings of the last major gin distillery in London and to create an entrance for the new visitor attraction.

Early designs were expressive, with folded terne coated steel suggesting gin being poured into a glass. But a new lead client took it back to a more pared down look. And by the time it got to consultation with the Health and Safety Executive, Lee Boyd director Alan Thomson found himself relieved that this was the option he was defending against HSE fears over increasing visitor numbers near a gasometer. The dark concrete panels might be inherently non-combustible but the glass had to be 35-40mm thick with heavily worked up detail and roller shutters. 

 

  • Linking the 19th century and 1950s.
    Linking the 19th century and 1950s. · Credit: Paul Riddle
  • A concrete canopy draws visitors into the building.
    A concrete canopy draws visitors into the building. · Credit: Paul Riddle
  • Under the canopy the dark concrete is etched with the curves of herbs.
    Under the canopy the dark concrete is etched with the curves of herbs. · Credit: Paul Riddle
  • Alongside the new tower the shop and gallery look out.
    Alongside the new tower the shop and gallery look out. · Credit: Paul Riddle
  • Details of three ages.
    Details of three ages. · Credit: Paul Riddle
  • Copper-coloured fins speak to the brick on one side, the steel to the concrete on the other.
    Copper-coloured fins speak to the brick on one side, the steel to the concrete on the other. · Credit: Paul Riddle
  • Diagonal stainless steel carriers echo the bracings of the nearby gasometer.
    Diagonal stainless steel carriers echo the bracings of the nearby gasometer. · Credit: Paul Riddle
  • Vertical lines continue inside.
    Vertical lines continue inside. · Credit: Paul Riddle
  • Light stairs for the visitors, despite the tightness of window dimensions.
    Light stairs for the visitors, despite the tightness of window dimensions. · Credit: Paul Riddle

Galleries are linked by the slim building to the 19th century Stills House, where guests end their tour with a gin and tonic while standing on a glass ceiling above the gin stills themselves. Visitors are drawn into the building under the canopy and etched concrete – before being directed to the galleries in the industrial 1950s building. Stairs and lifts in the new building are wrapped first in concrete then in copper-coloured fins. These are held in place by contrasting stainless steel carriers, the diagonal forms reminiscent of those problematic gasholders. The gasometer itself has now been decommissioned.