The Darlington Plant was Cummins’ first outpost in the UK and the first major commission for architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo (former associates of Eero and Eliel Saarinen).
The Component Plant was intended to be the glass-box neighbour to the solid-box engine plant next door. It has a simple rectangular plan, divided into 18m x 9m bays. The building is constructed using standard steel elements in a modular construction system. The structure is exposed throughout the main design office as an expression of the ‘steeliness’ and the industrial nature of its construction. The gasket-glazing system was a technique borrowed from the car industry. As opposed to placing each pane of glass into a frame and sealing with putty, the tinted glass panels are gripped tightly between Neoprene strips. The technique prompted one critic to write that “perhaps for the first time in England – the ancient dream of a glass wall without draughts has been realised.”
The rusted appearance is caused by the particular steel-alloy used, known as Cor-Ten (famed for its use in the Angel of the North). Although experimented with in North America, the Darlington Plant would be the first example of its use in the UK.
Images 1 and 4 copyright of the authors
Images 2-3 courtesy of Cummins Engines, Darlington
Images 5-6 copyright of Sheffield Hallam University, Photographer Peter Fawcett