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Inmos Microprocessor Factory
Duffryn Drive, Duffryn, Newport, Wales, UK
Inmos Microprocessor Factory
associated engineer
Anthony Hunt
Anthony Hunt Associates
date  1982
UK era  Modern  |  category  Factory/Industrial Plant  |  reference  ST291857
photo  courtesy Anthony Hunt
Possibly the best example of English High Tech architecture as far as marriage with a high tech client is concerned, the Inmos Microprocessor Factory was built at the time of the emerging computer chip industry. This type of building brought exacting requirements for 'clean' air and flexibility in layout, with wide uninterupted spaces that could be subdivided at will and provided with high levels of servicing.
Inmos was a British semiconductor company. Its exacting brief called for rapid building methods and the potential for extension. In the tradition of designers Archigram and of Michael Webb's Architectural Association design studies, Inmos' architect Richard Rogers developed a design using dry construction, plug-in, externally-serviced systemised accommodation modules.
A large rectilinear building, the factory accommodation consists of a series of equal-sized bays, six deep, ranged each side of a central spine, 7.2m wide by 106m long. The spine is the central corridor and acts like an internal street. Above it on the flat roof, supported by a series of latticework steel towers, are double-storey service pods and plant rooms. Highly visible exposed duct and pipework covers the roof, as can be seen from the Google satellite image. These feed into the celings of the production areas, and are also supported from above by the tower structures.
The bays in the main part of the building are set at 13m centres and are 36m deep. The production areas were on the north side (1982) and the canteen, offices and ancillary areas on the south. The modular design allows for unlimited extension on the same pattern.
For the structural design, engineer Anthony Hunt Associates designed a bolt-together structure fabricated in as large pieces as possible that could be transported and craned into position speedily and easily. The elements connected using split pin fasteners. Other complex connections were designed, including pin joints, forked connectors and specially designed bracketry.
Three-legged circular hollow section (CHS) tower columns each side of the central spine provide the primary support structure. The roof trusses are supported by tension rods paired to match the twin outer members of the tower columns. Twin tension rods support the trusses one third of the way along the spans, with a single rod at the two-thirds point. External splayed tension struts, held to the ground by anchor piles, express the need to balance the bending moment at that point. They provide lateral bracing, and support the roof trusses at their outer ends.
Steel castings were used where a large number of repeat components were required. The quantity justified the investment in casting patterns and foundry processes.
Unlike earlier, more experimental High Tech buildings, the Inmos factory relies on traditional flat roof technology, and proprietory glazing systems for the modular glass walls, solid infill and louvred panels.
Although the factory building is still in use, the Inmos name has not survived. The semiconductor industry has undergone much consolidation and Inmos was acquired in 1989, though the name wasn't dropped until 1994. The factory is now operated by global giant STMicroelectronics.
Architect: Richard Rogers & Partners
Supervising engineers: David Hemmings, Allan Bernau, Alan Jones
Research: ND
"High Tech Architecture" by Colin Davies, Thames & Hudson, London, 1988
"Engineer's Conribution to Contemporary Architecture, Anthony Hunt"
by Angus MacDonald, Thomas Telford Publishing, London, 2000

Inmos Microprocessor Factory