Sophies Macaulay       2020       

Orkney's Research & Design Centre for Electric Cars

Orkney is already at the forefront of renewable energy. Standing between the Atlantic and the North Sea, Orkney is home to some of the most energy-rich waters in Europe, some of the strongest winds, and a community that have embraced this potential with open arms – this facility aims to take this one step further. This Research & Design Centre aims to put Orkney at the forefront of the design and manufacture of zero emission vehicles. The establishment centres on the renewable energies and technologies which Orkney has already developed, expanding on them further to aid in the fight against the climate change. On a smaller scale this facility will work alongside the already established EMEC organisation - the world’s only multi-berth, purpose-built, open sea test facility for wave and tidal energies. The facility will also aid in spawning the new Stromness masterplan through the creation of jobs, a growth in the economy and will open up new opportunities for islanders, mainlanders and non-nationals to “live, work and play” on the island.

The facility will allow for complex testing and validation of Electric Vehicle motors, powertrain components, complete powertrains, and on the vehicle as a whole. Considering this the facility will include design studios, meeting rooms, laboratories, testing facilities, a cafeteria, a showroom, VR facility and an external test track. The design itself is divided into smaller departments all of which are connected by one large vaulted timber assembly room cutting into the slope east of the Hamnavoe and hiding from the unforgiving Orkney winds.

The aim of the project is to is to design a centre for the Design and Research of Orkney’s very own Electric Vehicle. The building will house the development of new Electric Vehicles through design, modelling, virtual reality, simulation, testing, assembly and disassembly. It is hoped that this new facility will bring jobs to both the people of Orkney and new-comers who have been attracted to live on the island due to the opportunities opened up by the master-plan.

 A key characteristic of the building is the large timber arches which span the large hall with The Design & Research Centre will partly be dedicated to the disassembly, testing, modification and reassembly of the electric car prototypes. This means that the engineers must be fully aware of how the car both comes apart and goes back together again. It is because of this that a decision has been made to make the secondary timber structure visible to reflect this notion of this notion of de-constructing and reconstructing within the building. The building itself is designed to merge into the landscape using the slope in the site to sink the building into the ground whilst matching the contours and thus depict the orientation of the building.