Ambitious architectural projects are based on ambitious goals – conceived as the world’s most environmentally-friendly furniture factory, THE PLUS, the new factory from Norwegian furniture manufacturer Vestre by acclaimed architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), not only leads the way in sustainable manufacturing, high-efficiency production and green architecture, it also demonstrates how an industrial facility can be a wonderful place to both work in and visit. Nestled in the forest outside Magnor, a small town near the Swedish border, the factory doubles as an experience centre offering visitors a host of activities, from guided tours and educational presentations, to hiking up and down the sprawling building and strolling around the surrounding 300-acre public park.
Taking its name from its cruciform floorplan, which when viewed from above looks like a plus sign, the 7,000-square-metre production facility consists of four radial production halls – a warehouse, colour factory, wood factory and the assembly area – connected by a logistical roundabout that coordinates the traffic between them. The radial layout ensures for short distances between the wings as well as makes it easy to extend them in the future. As Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner and Creative Director of BIG, says “the beauty of The Plus is in the clarity of its organization”.
A central courtyard is conceived as a public plaza functioning as a showroom for the brand’s outdoor furniture as well as a panopticon where visitors can see into all four production halls, courtesy of the all-glass enclosure. A staircase connects the courtyard to the upper floor exhibition centre, which provides visitors 360-degree views of the facility as well as a chance to learn about energy, water and circular design, and climbs all the way to the top of the building where they can take a stroll on the green rooftop terrace. Planted with native vegetation, the rooftop has been designed as an extension of the surrounding park, with two exterior staircases for easy access, plus Norway's highest slide offering a thrilling alternative.
Constructed in just 18 months out of local mass timber, low-carbon concrete and recycled steel, the factory is a paradigm of sustainable construction as well as energy and environmental performance thanks to plenty of photovoltaic panels, the use of local hydropower, rainwater collection, electric vehicles and other features that contribute to 90% lower energy demands than that of a conventional factory. Going one step further, to what Ingels calls “hedonistic sustainability”, the building’s credentials extend to the user experience, reimagining the industrial environment as a fun place to work in. Designed as flexible, column free-spaces, the four production halls are swathed in plenty of natural light as well as vibrant areas of colour, part of a playful colour coding scheme – green for the warehouse, red for the colour factory, yellow for the wood factory, and orange for the product assembly area, with a network of coloured paths winding between them creating in effect a building-wide flowchart.
The project’s ambitious brief extends to the surrounding area, which over the next five years, will be transformed into an experience park, complete with art installations, a playground with oversized Vestre furniture that children can climb and play with, a picnic area and a poetry trail, further cementing ‘The Plus’ as a convivial, uplifting place to spend your day.