The World's 18 Strangest Factories [pics]

Factories don't have to be huge, ominous gray buildings pouring smoke into the sky—this is an image of a late 19th-century factory, and it's hardly the norm in modern-day design. Companies around the world are focused on integrating "concerns for the inhabitants, surroundings, sustainability, and the overall corporeal imagery" into their buildings, says Diane Lewis, a practicing architect and professor in Cooper Union's architecture school. Cutting-edge industrial buildings no longer stick to one idea or design strategy, Lewis says, and our list proves just that. Here is a collection of the world's most innovative and interesting factories. [via pm]

1) Bang & Olufsen

Location: Struer, Denmark

Background: After building their first product in an attic in 1925, Peter Bang & Svend Olufsen built their first factory in Struer, Denmark two years later. Though the buildings have seen many renovations and expansions, most notably after being burned down by the Germans in World War II, the factory and headquarters remain there today. The most recent addition is the new headquarters building designed by Jan Søndergaard of KHR Architects and completed in 1998.

Why It's Unique: The headquarters building is intended to mimic Bang & Olufsen's products in terms of contrasts between lightness and heaviness, translucency and transparency. It also houses world's largest private electro-acoustic measurement facility, which includes a mock living room in which audio tests are performed.

(Photo by

2) Cristalchile

Location: Llay-Llay, Chile

Background: This glass bottle company chose to station their factory in the town of Llay-Llay (which means "wind-wind" in the Mapuche language native to the area), Chile, 53 miles north of Santiago. Guillermo Hevia, well known for his focus on sustainable factory design, was the lead architect on the project.

Why It's Unique: Cristalchile uses bioclimatic technologies, but is also designed for optimal natural ventilation using the area's strong winds and the holes in the glass facades and openings built into the undulating shape of the roof.

(Photo by Guy Wenborne/World Buildings Directory)

3) Paykar Bonyan Panel Factory

Location: Parand, Iran

Background: This factory is located in an industrial city just outside the capital city of Tehran. The goal of this project, which was completed the Iranian architect firm ARAD, was to challenge traditional construction systems seen in Iran.

Why It's Unique: Overall, the idea was to make the building one homogenous object, both in terms of the different sectors of the factory—production plant, offices and showroom—and in terms of the exterior appearance. And because the industrial area is dedicated to curbing pollution, the architects carefully build the factory in a North-South direction with various openings that allow for natural air ventilation, and as such, no need for air conditioning.

(Photo by Ali Daghigh/World Buildings Directory)

4) Fiberline Factory

Location: Middelfart, Denmark

Background: The Danish landscape is well-known for being mostly flat with a few hills. The architects of this factory, then focused on design that fit in well with its surrounding environment. Fiberline, a Denmark-based fiberglass company, commissioned Jan Søndergaard of the KHR architecture firm to design the project in 2005. Like many traditional factories, the building runs along a major highway and contains both production facilities and headquarters in the same structure.

Why It's Unique: In order to fit in with its surroundings, the building was conceived as an "artificial hillside" and was designed with the influence of its surroundings. The three bands on the outside are cuts in the opening that serve as skylights to provide the building with natural light, and they appear to resemble the bridge in the background. The eastern façade of the building has a translucent fiberglass covering, made by Fiberline to give their factory more identity.

(photo by

5) Everest Industries Factory Complex

Location: Bhagwanpur, Roorkee, India

Background: With this factory, India-based Matra Architects & Rurban Planners, aimed to get away from what they have found is a common disconnect between architects and clients in the industrial realm.

Why It's Unique: It appears that the architects used the umbrella—a simple yet economical tool—as inspiration in constructing a shading system for this factory. Aware of the rough Indian climate, the architects say that they tend to look for affordable, if unconventional solutions to reduce costs for maintenance. Made of corrugated cement sheets and supported by a steel frame, the "umbrella" roof is designed to block out hot direct sun and protect against torrential rains.

(Photo by Verendra Wakhloo/World Buildings Directory)

6) Mahle Metal Leve Tech Center

Location: Jundiai, Sao Paolo, Brazil

Background: This metal car part manufacturer is located in a rather peculiar place for an industrial building—the rainforest. Commissioned to design the building in 2006, Brazilian architects Roberto Loeb e Associados completed the building in 2008.

Why It's Unique: Located in the Atlantic rainforest reserve, the architects designed the building to maintain the landscape's original topography, and to be environmentally friendly by using natural lighting. Perhaps most intriguing however, are the large reflective pools on the roof that help maintain air humidity, decrease the heat inside the building, and to provide large water reserves in case of a fire.

(Photo by Roberto Loeb e Associados Ltd/World Buildings Directory)

7) Rioglass Solar Production Plant

Location: Lena, Spain

Background: Architects from the D. Villanueva Arquitectos firm were brought out to the Atlantic side of Spain to design and construct the factory for this solar panel manufacturer. The goal was to create something unconventional that still had the same cost as a traditional factory.

Why It's Unique: The Rioglass plant is traditional in that it uses concrete paneling, but it has a modified "skyline" in which it replaces the usual sandwich panel (cement and stone wafers stuffed with insulation) with glass. The glass panels are made with steel frames manufactured at the workshop in order to save costs, and the glass itself is made from silk printed tempered glass, with colors chosen to coincide with the colors of the landscape in which the factory resides.

(Photo by Marcos Morilla/World Buildings Directory)

8) Serta International Center

Location: Hoffman Estates, Illinois

Background: The mattress company's factory made a rare U.S. appearance in the World Architecture Festival for factory design, finding a place on the award shortlist in 2009. Designed by the architecture firm Epstein, the building houses 65,000 square feet of office, wholesale show room, and presentation areas along with a 25,000 square foot research & development center.

Why It's Unique: In planning and designing the building, Epstein focused their priorities on the mental and physical health of Serta's workers. This factored into the decision to build the plant next to a natural wetlands system, as well as the incorporation of natural light, natural ventilation, outdoor workspaces, and plenty of views of the wetlands for workers. In order, to maintain these features equally throughout the building, it is constructed horizontally, rather than vertically.

(Photo by Epstein/World Buildings Directory)

9) Ipekyol Textile Factory

Location: Edime, Turkey

Background: This textile factory sits on a patch of land along the road to the capital city of Kirklareli. Emre Arolat Architects finished the building in 2008.

Why It's Unique: Because of the constraints of the piece of land on which it resides, the building is all one piece, as opposed standing as a few separate buildings. Gardens are placed between the sections of the buildings to loosen up the feel of the building and give employees a place to take breaks in natural light and air. Also, all sections of the building have transparent frames to create a visual continuity throughout.

(Photo by Emre Arolat Architects/World Buildings Directory)

10) Volkswagen Transparent Factory

Location: Dresden, Gernmany

Background: This factory is made almost entirely of glass, hence it's German name "Gläserne Manufaktur," which literally translates as "factory made of glass." The factory, completed in 2001 by German architecture firm Henn Architekten, is the final location in the assembly of Volkswagen cars, and it's main focus is the company's luxury sedan line, the Phaeton.

Why It's Unique: This glass factory is designed to make the production process transparent to everyone. This was accomplished by making the walls inside the factory with glass, and by making it visitor-friendly, with no smokestacks, loud noises or toxic byproducts. Glaserne Manufaktur can accommodate up to 250 tourists per day, and also plays host to various exhibitions and events.

(Photo by Jean-Christophe/AFP/Getty Images)

11) Boeing Manufacturing Site

Location: Everett, Washington

Background: Boeing's site in Everett was originally constructed in 1968 to be the home for the production and assembly of Boeing's 747s because their facility in Seattle was too small. After major expansions over the past few decades, Boeing has added their 767, 777 and 787 Dreamliner models to the production line at Everett. More than 2600 of the 3000 planes built here are in service, or more than 80 percent of the worldwide fleet.

Why It's Unique: As you might imagine, any building in which 747's are assembled has to be big. In fact, Boeing's factory in Everett is recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest building in the world by volume, at 472 million cubic feet and covering a massive 98.3 acres of land. It has its own fire department, security force, medical clinic, electrical substations, and water-treatment plant. And to prevent build up of water and flooding on the roof, storm water is controlled through a system of engineered wetlands and holding ponds, the largest of which can hold 20 million gallons.

(Photo by Maurice King/Wikimedia)

12) Audi R8

Location: Necarksulm, Germany

Background: This factory dates all the way back to 1873 when it was established as a knitting machinery factory. A few years later they started producing penny-farthings, and slowly moved in the direction of car manufacturing thereafter. In 1969, the owners of the factory, NSU Motorenwerke AG, were purchased by Volkswagen and merged with Auto Union to form Audi, who runs the factory today. Though only half the size of Audi's main factory and headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, the factory is the location for manufacturing

Why It's Unique: Unlike most high-volume body shops, where all pieces are assembled and welded by robots, welding for the R8 is done by humans. Robots are used to line the parts up, and the human workers fuse them together. In total, it takes 120 Audi employees one week to produce a single R8. Fortunately, these guys are good multi-taskers—the Neckarsulm factory produces around 28 R8's per day.

13) Farmacias Ahumada Distribution Center

Location: Santiago, Chile

Background: Like the Cristalchile factory, Farmacias Ahumada's distribution center is well-known for it's eco-conscious design, thanks to the architectural expertise of Guillermo Hevia. The factory is located just outside Santiago, where the drug store brand first started in 1969. After growing to become the largest drugstore chain in Latin America, the company constructed a larger distribution center and headquarters. This is the latest rendition, completed in 2006.

Why It's Unique: Farmacias Ahumada's distribution center is the first bioclimatic project in Chile. It uses geothermic technology for conditioning different areas of the building, a wind and solar power, and uses natural zenithal lighting. The architects used BIOCLIM technology to ensure that the design and function were good for environmental protection, energy saving, and workplace quality. BIOCLIM is a computer generated simulation system used to predict how the design of the factory will function.

(Photo by

14) Intel's Fab32, Semiconductor Manufacturing Plant

Location: Chandler, Arizona

Background: Fab32 is Intel's sixth 300mm manufacturing facility, and it's first 45 nanometer manufacturing facility. The $3 billion dollar investment started in 2005, and the plant officially opened in 2007. CH2M Hill were the lead architects on the project.

Why It's Unique: The factory is a key development for the semiconductor industry's efforts to become more environmentally friendly. Fab32 uses natural skylights, solar energy, retention ponds, and reflective roofing. Equipment control is also optimized for energy savings—thanks to a "sleep" mode—and a focus on recycling water and chemicals to reduce waste has led to a 15 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and conservation of 70 percent of the water used. The project is seeking designation as the company's first LEED-certified factory.

(Photo by Al Payne/World Buildings Directory)

15) Photopia Limited Warehouse and Workshop

Location: Gyeounggi-do, South Korea

Background: Nicknamed the "Purple Whale", this factory is one of the newer buildings in the Paju Publishing Culture Information Industrial Complex (Paju Book City, for short) Located 30 minutes outside of Seoul, the newly built city is only 7 years old, but looks to be the future center of South Korean publishing.

Why It's Unique: The building is essentially one large metallic, purple colored mass that twists and bends through the relatively colorless industrial complex that it calls home. The goal of the architects was to build something that would make Paju Book City more vibrant in color, but also serve as a symbol for more movement and energy in a relatively static city.

(Photo by Jong Oh Kim)

16) Veolia Material Recovery Facility

Location: Oslo, Norway

Background: Veolia Environmental Services gave Norwegian architects from the Arkitektkontoret GASA a simple mission for this waste processing plant: take 15 million euros, and build a roof over a 28,000 square meter (about 92,000 square foot) production area.

Why It's Unique: Though a simple project at the start, the Veolia facility soon became recognized by many architects as the best—and largest—green roof project in Scandanavia. The green roof, which is essentially a 92,000 square foot lawn covering the roof, is used to mitigate temperature fluctuations inside the building and to control storm water flooding. It also prevents the emission of approximately 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

(Photo by Arkitektkontoret GASA A/S/World Buildings Directory)

17) Bodegas Protos

Location: Valladolid, Spain

Background: Bodegas Protos is a wine-growing firm that has been around since 1927, but the most recent update of their winery facility has been widely recognized as a beautiful piece of architecture. The UK-based architecture firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners designed and completed the project in 2008.

Why It's Unique: The building is partly buried in the ground in order to accommodate the fermentation and storage vats. There is a sunken garden that offers natural light to the offices next to it, while also providing a view of Peñafiel Castle on the hillside. The design was intended to be light and airy, which was accomplished by building five parabolic vaults all connected to each other. Cooling for the wine is accomplished from the thermal ground mass, shading systems, and the low night-time temperatures.

(Photo by Fototeca/World Buildings Directory)

18) TDR Tobacco Factory

Location: Kanfanar, Croatia

Background: TDR, the large international cigarette company that rivals Phillip Morris, commissioned architects from Kincl Ltd. to design and construct this factory, which was completed in 2009.

Why It's Unique: Being located in the relatively small and green town of Kanafar, the factory was designed to maintain a synergy with the surrounding natural environment. The architects built the factory on a slight slope, step-like, in order to maintain a level height with the natural horizon. They also turned towards past architecture for inspiration, namely the Palazzo del Diamanti in Ferrara, Italy, designed by architect Piagio Rossetti. This research influenced their decision to build the front of the factory out of spiral-shaped panels that are partially painted on either side, giving the effect of an interplay between light and shadow.

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