Dyson Campus by WilkinsonEyre


Building on a 20-year relationship with technology company Dyson, WilkinsonEyre has completed a £250m expansion of the Dyson campus in rural Wiltshire, which it first designed in 1996. The centrepiece is a mirrored glass box designed to conceal the brand’s most top-secret innovations...


It was in a modest 250 sq m coach house in his garden near Bath that James Dyson worked on 5,127 prototypes to create the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner. The DC01 was launched in 1993, using his patented Dual Cyclone technology. By 1995, the company had moved to a 7,500 sq m factory complex in Malmesbury in rural Wiltshire, where it is still based.

Now Dyson operates worldwide, from Milan and Madrid to Sydney and Toronto, with 7,500 patents and nearly 7,000 staff. It currently spends a huge £5m a week on research and development and will have launched 15 new products by the end of the year. By 2020 Dyson will employ more than 12,000 people. And with such ambitious growth comes a need for a suitably state-of-the-art research and development facility.

Masterplan
Masterplan. Credit: WilkinsonEyre

A new £250m expansion of the Dyson campus by London-based WilkinsonEyre has seen the Malmesbury site stretch to 56 acres, providing a shiny new research building, 129 research laboratories and collaborative spaces for up to 450 engineers, a new café and multipurpose sports centre for staff. The existing buildings, once used for manufacturing before it all moved overseas, have also been reconfigured to provide extra workspace for the 3,000-strong workforce. ‘Dyson has evolved from a family business with a factory to a big technology campus that rivals Californian campuses,’ says Chris Wilkinson, founder of WilkinsonEyre. ‘A lot of young, ambitious, creative people come here from all over the world; it’s more than just a building they come to, it’s a lifestyle.’

The mirrored facades make the buildings seem smaller than they really are, as well as frustrating would-be prying eyes. Photo Credit: WilkinsoneYredyson Research Limited Masterplan WilkinsoneyreThe mirrored facades make the buildings seem smaller than they really are, as well as frustrating would-be prying eyes. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

It’s also the culmination of 20 years of work between Dyson and WilkinsonEyre, starting when Chris Wilkinson first met James Dyson in the mid-Nineties. The two were introduced by the engineer Tony Hunt after Wilkinson had written the book Super Sheds on long-spanning structures. Says Wilkinson: ‘I was very interested in the idea that industrial sheds were a form of architecture that hadn’t really been addressed by anyone up to that time. It appeared to me that sheds were going to become more rather than less important.’

It was a meeting of minds: the two share similarly scientific approaches, a passion for innovative, problem-solving technology and meticulous design details. ‘We quickly became firm friends. I was inspired by what James was trying to achieve, developing a new technology that overcame real problems,’ says Wilkinson. ‘It became clear very early on that his ambition and vision for new ideas had synergy with what I was trying to achieve with my architecture.’

The mirrored facades make the buildings seem smaller than they really are, as well as frustrating would-be prying eyes. Photo Credit: WilkinsoneYredyson Research Limited Masterplan WilkinsoneyreThe mirrored facades make the buildings seem smaller than they really are, as well as frustrating would-be prying eyes. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

Dyson brought in WilkinsonEyre to design the company’s factory and headquarters back in 1996 — a simple pavilion topped with a gently undulating roof. It needed to be a functional, flexible building that was an expression of the same aesthetics as the Dyson products. ‘When we started working on the first Dyson building in Malmesbury, James was clear from the outset that this should be a decent piece of architecture.

The Dyson Demo concept store, also created by WilkinsonEyre, in Oxford Street, London. Photo Credit: Wilkinsoneyredyson Research Limited Dyson Campus WilkinsoneyreThe Dyson Demo concept store, also created by WilkinsonEyre, in Oxford Street, London. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

He has always been very conscious of where we’re working, in a truly untouched and beautiful countryside, and this dictated the shape of the main building. From afar, it wasn’t to be seen as an industrial factory but a structure simply floating above the tree line. The vision has remained the same.’

Dyson CampusDyson Campus. Credit: WilkinsonEyre

Fast forward to 2000 and WilkinsonEyre had created Dyson’s first showroom in Paris. Earlier this year these two old friends joined forces once again to create the UK’s first Dyson Demo concept store on London’s Oxford Street, a teaser for the Dyson campus expansion to come. The 200 sq m, two-storey space displays products on plinths like pieces of art, while a continuous line of video screens immerses visitors in the Dyson world. Upstairs, stylists can style your hair with the new Supersonic hairdryer or you can watch as a selection of different types of dust are scattered on to a carpet and very satisfyingly swiftly vacuumed up.

Among several engineering design icons dotted around the campus is the English Electric Lighting jet from the Sixties, hanging in the cafe pavilion. Photo Credit: Wilkinsoneyredyson Research Limited Dyson Campus WilkinsoneyreAmong several engineering design icons dotted around the campus is the English Electric Lighting jet from the Sixties, hanging in the cafe pavilion. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

In 2012, Dyson acquired more land in Malmesbury. The brief for a new research and development building — D9, so-called as it’s the ninth Dyson building in England — was to create a clear-span structure that rifted on the same ideas WilkinsonEyre developed for the Dyson campus 20 years ago. It provides 8,000 sq m of flexible space where engineers can beaver away quietly behind closed doors on Dyson’s most top-secret inventions. Fearful of ideas being leaked and conscious of the tight security, the design of this creative sanctuary was conceived as a minimal, highly reflective, glass pavilion that blends into the surrounding landscape and prevents wandering eyes peering in.

In aiming to reference the aesthetics of the Dyson products WilksonEyre added this sculptural corkscrew spiral staircase to the cafe building opposite D9. Photo Credit: Wilkinsoneyredyson Research Limited Dyson Campus WilkinsoneyreIn aiming to reference the aesthetics of the Dyson products WilksonEyre added this sculptural corkscrew spiral staircase to the cafe building opposite D9. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

‘Dyson takes a very, very scientific approach to the seeding of its ideas or products. It’s not always a case of analysing the market or taking a product from the market and saying, “let’s do the same and make it better”; it’s much more about experimentation and going deep into the science of the technology,’ says Jake Dyson, James’ son and the company’s research design and development director. ‘For the Supersonic hairdryer, for example, for four years a team of 80 engineers have been playing around with human hair under a microscope to understand the effects of hot air on hair, before even thinking of a product and what that product is going to be. ‘We produce hundreds and hundreds of brilliant ideas each day. We need a great deal of security, not only from the outside world but within the campus too, and that’s why we had to separate the seeding part of the business, the actual deep science and those brilliant ideas, and the rest of the business.’

Bright pink Series 7 chairs from Fritz Hansen in the cafe space reference the newly launched (pink) Supersonic hairdryer. Photo Credit: Wilkinsoneyredyson Research Limited Dyson Campus WilkinsoneyreBright pink Series 7 chairs from Fritz Hansen in the cafe space reference the newly launched (pink) Supersonic hairdryer. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

This disappearing act makes D9 appear much smaller from the outside than it actually is. The mirrored glazing system, with panels measuring 5m x 3m, is only interrupted by dark, metal escape stairs, which Wilkinson wanted to have a ‘delicate filigree quality’. Inside, two vast floors are arranged around a central atrium and steel staircase — Wilkinson describes it as having a ‘doughnut plan’: project zones and spaces for hot desking are placed around the perimeter of the building with uninterrupted views through floor-to-ceiling glazing onto the surrounding landscape, with more private research laboratories and workshops (strictly offlimits to visitors) in the middle. The open-plan, flexible working spaces will encourage the crosspollination of ideas between teams and sectors. Teams are also closer together than before, enabling increased productivity. Perhaps all the employees had been sent away for the press visit, but there was no one to be seen and no whiff of activity.

The HangarThe Hangar. Credit: WilkinsonEyre

The place had a clean, sterile feel, all exposed pre-cast concrete floors and pristine white walls. ‘There’s nothing here that is extravagant,’ notes Wilkinson. The landscape beyond feels within touching distance — panoramas of greenery that bring a sense of peace and calm to the interior. Says Jake Dyson: ‘You have this complete aspect of just being able to look out to the horizon — it does contribute to mindfulness.’

The working spaces of D9 are lit by Dyson Lighting’s Cu-Beam Duo lights, a suspended fixture that ‘floats like satellites’ above desks. Frustrated with problematic fluorescent lights and inefficient LEDs that need to be cooled effectively, Jake Dyson set out to create his own lighting design company in 2004; it was bought by Dyson in 2015, with its name changed to Dyson Lighting. ‘We’re focusing on not going with the status quo and looking at different ways of lighting that have much more efficiency. It’s about focusing far more on the way people live and work under light, the quality of light and improving the long life performance of light,’ he says. ‘It’s wonderful that our own products can be put in our buildings. The building is designed for engineering and creativity, it’s open plan with long working spaces for hot-desking, so it’s a wonderful example of how lighting should be used in office environments.’

The new Cu-Beam features both a single-source downlight for efficient task lighting and an uplight to cast a wide pool of light across the ceiling for a soft, ambient light throughout the space. It uses innovative heat-pipe technology — most commonly used in satellites and microprocessor technology — to cool LEDs, allowing it to sustain brightness for up to 180,000 hours without needing to change a bulb. ‘I’m not interested in seven years of life, or even 10: I want 35 years of life,’ says Jake Dyson. ‘I want to design products for spaces where the interiors are designed not to be touched or adjusted for 40 years.’

Called The Hangar, with inspiration from real aircraft hangars and the campus’ aviation icons, a multipurpose sports centre has been provided for use by staff. Photo Credit: Wilkinsoneyredyson Research Limited The Hangar WilkinsoneyreCalled The Hangar, with inspiration from real aircraft hangars and the campus’ aviation icons, a multipurpose sports centre has been provided for use by staff. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

Lighting can be customised by workers, varying the strength or changing between uplight and downlight depending on the task at hand; more downlighting for sketching or less during presentations. The Cu-Beam is being trialled at the Dyson campus for release in 2017. Exposed active chilled beams pump fresh air around the building while photovoltaic panels on the roof help D9 generate its own electricity.

Called The Hangar, with inspiration from real aircraft hangars and the campus’ aviation icons, a multipurpose sports centre has been provided for use by staff. Photo Credit: Wilkinsoneyredyson Research Limited The Hangar WilkinsoneyreCalled The Hangar, with inspiration from real aircraft hangars and the campus’ aviation icons, a multipurpose sports centre has been provided for use by staff. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

Scattered around the campus are various design icons and feats of engineering intended to inspire the staff. Outside reception there’s a rare Bell 47 helicopter that took to the skies in 1946 as the first certified commercial and military helicopter in the world, while a section of a 1961 Austin Mini sits under the stairs in the otherwise empty atrium of D9. Sourced by the engineers for Dyson’s 60th birthday, it was sawn in half with an angle grinder and one half carefully put back together, painted and polished. There’s also the only working Whittle jet engine left in the world, a Harrier jet, and soon the collection will welcome a Concorde engine.

‘Our icons, their stories, and the people behind them show what’s possible when engineers think big, unconstrained by the current state of the art. Each was audacious in its time and shows how engineers can really change the world,’ says James Dyson. ‘They’re not museum artefacts, they’re here to be touched and understood: the engineering, the idea, the frustration and the failure along the way too.’

Called The Hangar, with inspiration from real aircraft hangars and the campus’ aviation icons, a multipurpose sports centre has been provided for use by staff. Photo Credit: Wilkinsoneyredyson Research Limited The Hangar WilkinsoneyreCalled The Hangar, with inspiration from real aircraft hangars and the campus’ aviation icons, a multipurpose sports centre has been provided for use by staff. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

Perhaps the most impressive though is a Sixties’ English Electric Lightning jet that hangs over diners’ heads in the cafe pavilion opposite D9. Designed as an interceptor in the Cold War, 28 of these supersonic jets were built in 1960; they flew until 1973 and up until 1968 had the fastest rate of climb of any combat aircraft. This particular one came into Dyson’s hands in 2014 and had 18 months of restoration before Unusual Rigging and Atelier One, the team behind the rigging for the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, hoisted it into place using only three connections to the roof, a feat of engineering in itself.

The cafe space is further enlivened by 350 bright Barbie pink Series 7 chairs from Fritz Hansen. Before, Dyson had opted for vibrant purple accents on his campus to match the purple and yellow parts of his vacuum cleaners. A dramatic glass bridge over a purple pool once greeted visitors; while the glass bridge is still there, the water feature is no longer as lurid. Here in the new spaces the pink was chosen to match the shade of Dyson’s newly launched Supersonic hairdryer. To one side a sculptural corkscrew spiral staircase leads to a balcony lined with new meeting rooms. Explains Wilkinson: ‘There was a point where there was a discussion about how we could bring the aesthetics of the products into the building and this stair was one.’

Called The Hangar, with inspiration from real aircraft hangars and the campus’ aviation icons, a multipurpose sports centre has been provided for use by staff. Photo Credit: Wilkinsoneyredyson Research Limited The Hangar WilkinsoneyreThe first building for Dyson by WilkinsonEyre (1996) was a factory pavilion topped with an undulating roof; functional, flexible but an expression of the aesthetics of Dyson products. Photo Credit: WilkinsonEyre Dyson Research Limited 

Inspired by aircraft hangars and the aviation icons, the campus now also has a new multipurpose sports centre, The Hangar, located a short walk from the cafe at the northern tip of the site. The anonymous curved-roof structure offers staff space to let loose, play football, basketball, tennis and badminton or make use of the fitness suite. The surrounding landscape has been improved and there’s also a nature walk around the campus.

At the Dyson campus, WilkinsonEyre has met its match — it is the perfect pairing of technology and innovation. The practice has succeeded in creating a super shed, a deceptively simple industrial box that conceals and protects the bright minds of Dyson, its super ideas and next innovations.





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