Vickers Armaments

Ryder and Yates

A tank factory for Vickers Armaments replaced a series of existing works scattered over several miles between the Tyne and Scotswood Road, including the original Elswick Works established by William Armstrong, the 19th-century armaments manufacturer.

The design for the factory used a simple portal frames aesthetic clad almost entirely in aluminium cladding to produce a building almost half a kilometre long.

The simple structural solution of increasing the cross section where necessary from the standard three bays that ran the full length of the building. The height of the main nave of the building was determined by that of the equipment to be housed.

The long factory had no apparent change of scale or form on the main facade other than a restless yellow gutter that ran up and down to signal entrances or enclosures and reached its climax over the entrance in the form of an inverted V. The aluminium was used only above the gutter on the north (road) side of the building, but was extended to the ground on the south (river) side, where a complementary aesthetic took over for the offices in a projecting extension set under a natural continuation of the roof slope. There, a perforated concrete screen signalled the entrance to the offices.

The necessary airtight structure was achieved by a combination of curved eaves and oval-shaped windows (with neoprene gaskets) that suited the corrugations in the cladding.