Cummins Engine factory by ABK

Cummins Engine factory, Shotts, Scotland, 1900

· Credit: John donat / RIBA library photographs collection

This rare example of humane factory design was the first British facility for the US-based Cummins Engine Company, which employed Ahrends Burton & Koralek to convert an existing Scottish textile mill into offices with a new workshop behind. The company’s enlightened attitude to the positive effects that thoughtful design could have on workers meant that the factory was designed through extensive consultation involving the employees.

This photograph by John Donat, a classmate of ABK’s at the AA School in the 1950s, demonstrates the dramatic articulation of the windows, presenting a striking exterior view particularly by night but also enabling workers to see the landscape while they worked – or sat in the bays to eat lunch. Donat photographed much of the firm’s work and wrote that ‘an ABK building is recognisable not through any family resemblance of style, appearance or manner, but because what they build comes through a process of decision and selection specific to each job, but characterised by their own particular way of solving problems’. The factory closed in 1998 and is now used for warehousing. It was listed in 2004.