Manplan: 3: Hewlett Packard factory, South  Queensferry


Manplan 3’s opening image of the River Tyne taken by Tim Street-Porter dramatically captures the slow, painful decline of heavy industry. Yet in 1969 many precision engineering products were still being manufactured in dilapidated 19th century buildings and with poor working conditions for employees leading to frequent industrial unrest.

“Industrialists, if they think of an architect at all, regard him as a stylist who is engaged to titivate the more conspicuous parts of a structure designed by engineers or contractors.” (Robert Andrew Bullivant, Chairman RIBA Public Relations Committee, quoted in The Architectural Review, November 1969)

In this issue The Architectural Review [AR] considered new approaches to designing industrial buildings, with the projects depicted clearly highlighting the transition from the buildings of the Industrial Revolution to the steel framed, cladded sheds with which we are so familiar today. Harold Brockman writing in The Financial Times (20 March 1969) considered that “We no longer need to think of factories in terms of concentrated and polluted areas solely devoted to industry” proposing instead that light industry should “now be planned within residential areas.” This formed the basis of the AR’s argument that industrial buildings should be designed to give greater flexibility and aid easier expansion by means of ‘system building’ as well as that “clean industry” be brought back into residential areas. They particularly wished to counter planners determined to separate industry from housing into trading estates which the AR considered to be ghettoes of “outstanding natural ugliness.”

This was the first of the series to employ a guest editor, in this case Norman Foster. Foster was an appropriate choice given that he was previously part of Team 4 the designers of the Reliance Controls Limited electronic factory, Swindon (1967) often regarded to be the first true High-Tech building. Here a radical approach was taken housing the factory floor, management and staff amenities in one flexible, adaptable building or ‘serviced shed’. Thus, it was a much more democratic building without the segregation typical of the time. In Manplan 3 Foster proposed a ‘multi-purpose system’ using the American School Construction Systems Development (SCSD) system. Foster’s megastructure housed not only the factory but its associated offices and storage but perhaps even a supermarket: “Not so much town workshop as a workshop embracing a town.”

Amongst several international examples of good contemporary industrial design two British designs stood out. The Marconi-Elliott micro-electronics factory by Anthony B. Davies & Associates at Witham was clad externally giving strong visual unity and internally was designed to be a highly controlled environment with air conditioning, vacuum cleaning plant and an acid neutralising effluent system. Roche Products storage building, Welwyn Garden City by James Cubitt, Fello Atkinson & Partners was considered to integrate well with the already critically acclaimed Modernist factory by Otto Salvisberg completed in 1939.

Another of the buildings featured was Foster Associates’ quick conversion (three months) of an existing building in Hemel Hempstead for Computer Technology Limited which was claimed to be Britain’s first fully flexible work-space. It was expanded further in 1970 with the addition of temporary inflatable ‘air tent’. Similarly, in the grounds of the ruined Eglinton Castle a pneumatic building was erected just 6 weeks after ordering at Robert Wilson and Sons’ canning factory which had expanded in size beyond its existing Robert Adam designed stable block.

As good example of a ‘town workshop’ it seems odd that the AR used a number of photomontages of the Pepys Estate, Deptford combined with industrial buildings yet chose only a single image to illustrate the Canning Place development then under construction in the centre of Liverpool. This was a complex of office buildings, flatted factories, pub, showroom and fire station.

As part of his commission for the AR Tim Street-Porter travelled around north east England, Manchester and Birmingham documenting doomed industries, slum housing (with the inevitable gangs of children and stray dogs), and polluted landscapes all now virtually swept away in the space of two generations. Yet of the many hundreds of photographs taken the vast majority of the images printed up and ultimately published depict late sixties contemporary industrial architecture. Compared to the first two issues, the photographs used to illustrate Manplan 3 focussed more positively on architecture, rather than on the harsh reality of what had gone before or failing contemporary architecture.

As the Manplan series it progressed it gained a certain notoriety with which it is associated today. The opening salvo came in the February 1970 edition from Edward Grozier who considered that the ‘town workshop’ concept would not live up to its ideals and ultimately descend into squalor:

“I can see no place for industry in residential areas… Architects should practise what they preach; they joyfully advocate living umpteen floors up in the thick of things but are careful to live in country cottages themselves. Who would not do his best to stop a smart, clean transistor works starting up next door to his house?” (The Architectural Review, February 1970)

Also see: more images of Manplan 3: Town Workshop

Return to the Manplan Landing Page


Manplan 3: Town Workshop

Publication date: November 1969

Series editor: Tom Rock

Consultant editor: Norman Foster

Guest photographer: Tim Street-Porter  


Article by Jonathan Makepeace

39 items
RIBA51082Factory and offices for British Holophane Company, Bond Avenue, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

RIBA62498Labour Exchange, Jarrow, Tyneside

RIBA62501River Tyne, Wallsend, North Tyneside: site of the waggonway system

RIBA62502K & L engineering factory, Killingworth Township, North Tyneside

RIBA62503Marconi-Elliott Microelectronics factory, Witham, Essex

RIBA62510Marconi-Elliott Microelectronics factory, Witham, Essex: entrance to the clean area

RIBA62512Marconi-Elliott Microelectronics factory, Witham, Essex: a technician at work in the laboratory

RIBA62516Hewlett Packard factory, South Queensferry

RIBA62517Roche Products storage building, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

RIBA62519Roche Products storage building, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire: the all-steel storage stacks

RIBA62526Computer Technology Limited factory, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

RIBA62529Computer Technology Limited factory, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire: the canteen

RIBA62531Meat porter at Central Markets, West Smithfield, City of London

RIBA62532Ruins of Eglinton Castle, Kilwinning, Irvine, Ayrshire

RIBA62533Robert Wilson & Sons food canning factory, the stables of Eglinton Castle, Kilwinning, Irvine, Ayrshire: factory workers outside the converted stable block

RIBA62534'Airhouse' for Robert Wilson & Sons in the grounds of Eglinton Castle, Kilwinning, Irvine, Ayrshire

RIBA62535'Airhouse' for Robert Wilson & Sons in the grounds of Eglinton Castle, Kilwinning, Irvine, Ayrshire

RIBA62540Drawing offices for Lockheed-Georgia Company (GELAC), Marietta, Georgia: the completed building in full use on 8 June 1966

RIBA62595Construction workers erecting the steel frame of the I. E. M. C. factories at Knowsley, Lancashire

RIBA62596Construction worker pulling drainage pipes on a wheelbarrow during the construction of the I. E. M. C. factories at Knowsley, Lancashire

RIBA62602Declining industrial landscape, Barton Power Station, Eccles

RIBA62603Remnants of a bygone industrial age

RIBA62607Alma Inn and graffiti, Main Street, Shildon

RIBA62612Children posing for the photographer against the backdrop of workers' housing and industrial cooling towers, Teeside

RIBA62622Factory unit, Stephenson Industrial Estate, Washington New Town, Tyne & Wear

RIBA62624Advance cable manufacturers, Stephenson Industrial Estate, Washington New Town, Tyne & Wear

RIBA62635Handlers having a cup of tea in the out-dated storage area of a depot

RIBA62641Forklift truck operator moving palletted goods in a Sainsbury's supermarket depot

RIBA62651A warehouse with mechanized storage systems

RIBA62654Managers discussing the motorized scooter for moving around the warehouse with forklift truck operator looking on