by Aarthi MohanJul 28, 2023
The world isn't a wish-granting factory but the factory by Bjarke Ingels Group seems to be a step closer to granting the world's wish for a sustainable future. In a small town named Magnor amidst the Norwegian woods, just outside Oslo and in close proximity to Sweden, Norwegian manufacturer of urban furniture, Vestre, anchored their new factory, a place where production can be both sustainable and profitable, contrasting to the conventional processes of manufacturing industries. The company together with BIG collaborated in 2020 to design a colourful manufacturing village with a furniture factory, an experience centre, and a 300-acre public park. Named after the shape of the building, The Plus is conceived as the intersection of a road and a production line connecting all aspects of manufacturing. As per Vestre’s CEO, Stefan Tjust, the building will be the world’s most environment-friendly furniture factory that brings together cutting-edge technology and Scandinavian collaboration.
The 7000 sqm structure connects all manufacturing units in a radial arrangement of four main production halls comprising a warehouse, colour factory, wood factory, and the assembly. Like an 'archipelago of colours', each hall becomes a vibrant island with a unique colour drenching the machinery and flowing to the floors. The colour coding is such that the warehouse presents shades in blue, the colour factory in green, the wood factory in red, and the assembly in yellow. This palette helps easily distinguish the spaces and enables an efficient, flexible, and transparent workflow between the manufacturing units and to enable an intuitive visitor experience. The four halls converge at the central hub where the latest outdoor furniture collections will be displayed for the visitors.
The open courtyard in the centre of The Plus is the heart of the design. The cylindrical form greets the visitor with a dynamic alternative white flooring in a spiral pattern. With bright yellow handrails and a sculptural spiral staircase that connect the ground floor to the accessible roof, the courtyard becomes a distinct statement in the whole design. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows surrounding the courtyard frame the interior spaces of the building towards a gallery. The sustainable material palette of the building with local mass timber, low-carbon concrete, and recycled steel reciprocates BIG's and the Vestre's intent to create a green landmark for the manufacturing industry. While conveying the thought behind the design, the founder of BIG, Bjarke Ingels states, "Together with Vestre, we have imagined a factory that puts the entire process of furniture-making on open display - at centre stage. Rather than fearing industrial espionage, the factory wants to show and share its knowledge to help accelerate the global transition towards sustainable manufacturing.”
While the programs of the factory are placed in accordance with the layout and user interaction, the design takes a leap through sustainability initiatives and its form. The astute design of the reciprocal ceiling doubles up to a 24x7 accessible green roof. On the rooftop, 900 photovoltaic panels are placed and angled according to optimal solar efficiency. Apart from the generation of solar energy, effective construction methods, rainwater collection systems, heat and cooling systems, and electric vehicles contribute to a 90 per cent lower energy demand than that of a conventional factory. The two exhibition centres, Vestre Energy and Clean Water Center, will create a platform for the visitors to learn about energy, water, and circular design.
While a traditional factory limits the connections of the interiors to the outdoors, inside The Plus each wing has one alternating ceiling corner lifted to create inclined roofs that allow views into the production halls as well as the forest outside. Reinventing a new typology for manufacturing units, BIG and Vestre break the solid and constrained barrier of traditional factories to etch new transparent narratives in glass façades. With the roof as the destination, the building embraces visitors and staff from all of its four sides to hike around the facility and walk amid the woods. An ADA-accessible ramp allows wheelchairs and strollers to enjoy the serpentine path surrounding the pine trees.
With its completion in 2022, The Plus is said to become the first project of its kind in the world to achieve the highest environmental BREEAM rating – the 'Outstanding' classification. The building will produce 50 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional factory and generate around 250,000 kWh of renewable energy per year. Speaking of the sustainable intent of the project, Ingels add, “To us, The Plus is a crystal-clear example of Hedonistic Sustainability – showing us how our sustainable future will not only be better for the environment but also more beautiful to work in and more fun to visit."
(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)