Friday, October 19, 2007

Rubber factory, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

19th-century factories can be paradoxical buildings. Their rows of evenly placed windows can look arrestingly modern, forerunners of the ‘what you see is what you get’ aesthetic of the 20th century. So often, though, factory owners wanted a bit more than this, and a pilaster here, a Classical column there are testimony to the pretensions of mill-owners and the aspirations of builders who wanted to create ‘proper’ architecture. ‘I could do you a mill without a portico, Mr Arkwright, but it wouldn’t be a proper job.’

The rubber factory at Bradford-on-Avon, designed by Richard Gane, takes a different approach. For a start, delightfully in this stone town, stone was used for the walls. So the building conforms to the town’s honey-coloured palette – not that a structure this size would do anything as unassuming as blend in, but the colour helps. More than this, though, the building gets its character from a pleasingly eclectic mix of design features: a Classical looking cornice and, of all things, pointed, Gothic arches. It shouldn’t work really, but it does. It seems right in a town in which a Saxon church jostles with Jacobean houses and Victorian factories – a feast, in fact, for the building-fancier. I hope to return soon.


Peter Ashley said...

I imagine this was Avon Tyres? The only car you ever saw them on were Rolls Royces or Bentleys.

Neil said...

When next in Bradford-on-Avon, try not to miss the old hand-cart fire station.