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09 Oct 2019
Macallan Distillery 'technically very impressive' says RSHP's Stephen Barrett
By Stu Robarts
Macallan Distillery 'technically very impressive' says RSHP's Stephen Barrett
Stephen Barrett says the Macallan Distillery is "technically very impressive"
Photo: Joas Souza
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) partner Stephen Barrett has praised the work carried out by his firm on the RIBA Stirling Prize-nominated Macallan Distillery, saying it is "technically very impressive".

Although the project did not win the top honour at last night's awards ceremony, it was awarded the 2019 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award earlier in the week – and not without good reason, according to Barrett.

"I didn’t work on the project, but I know that little things like negotiating public access to walk around the stills wasn’t simple," he told CLAD in an interview. "They’re very hot, and it is all part of an active industrial process.

"There’s a two-hour explosion-proof glass wall between the still house and the visitor centre. You can entirely see through it and it’s technologically highly proficient. In order to prove to the Scottish authorities that it was a legitimate solution, we had to work with our engineers, build a test rig and test it.

"You need a certain kind of client who’s willing to go down that route. It would be a lot easier to say, let’s just build a concrete wall there."

The visitor centre is cut into a hillside and has a grass-covered roof that helps it to blend in with its surroundings. Explaining how the idea was conceived, John McElgunn, one of the other partners at RSHP, told us it was inspired by a different form of alcohol production.

"That project came about when the client took a trip through France and Spain and saw all these vineyards building their own wineries and bodegas. They thought, nobody’s doing this for whisky. Why don’t we?

"It’s a spectacular building; just stunning. It’s on a beautiful site in an area of outstanding natural beauty – this building is an homage to the beautiful hills all around it. Inside, it becomes a kind of Jules Verne experience – all the stills are on display and it looks almost like a Victorian time machine."

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