Automobile Suspension: Renault Distribution Centre, Return to Swindon


Fifteen years after completing Reliance Controls, Norman Foster returned to Swindon with another industrial commission, but this time executed in a bold expressionist language which offers a strong contrast with the confident restraint of the earlier electronics factory. Built for the British division of Renault, the structure here is carried to a rather baroque extreme, with a jungle of 16 metre tall masts on a 24 metre square grid holding with steel cables an undulating roof which floats over the ground like a flying carpet. Brightly painted in yellow, this playful circus extends its suspended canopy with the muscular display of an athlete on a trapeze, more gymnastic than acrobatic, and with its exhibitionist detailing successfully transmitting the image of technological excellence demanded in the brief by the French car manufacturer. Almost fabricated rather than built, this horizontal container stresses its structural gimmickry leaving some free standing modules as porticoes, and setting back the enclosure to expose its loadbearing logic, in a pedagogic gesture characteristic of many of Foster’s buildings, but in none of them carried to the extremes of this Renault centre of Swindon: a place where the architect made the transit from Brunelleschi to Bernini in a decade and a half...[+]

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