Macallan Distillery

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Craigellachie, 2018


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The distillery is located in the Scottish Highlands 

Joas Souza     Download Original

  • The distillery is located in the Scottish Highlands    
  • The shapely roof looms up out of the hillside    
  • The building sits within the 150ha site of the 18th-century Easter Elchies House    
  • The roof is  a flowing glulam and lumber structure that spans the whole distillery    
  • The distillery is now able to quadruple production    
  • A parametric model was used to design the timber roof    
  • The roof used around 300,000 individual components    
  • The distillery now has the capacity for 17,000 visitors each year    
  • The undulating roof will become a symbol of the Macallan brand    
  • Level 1 plan    
  • Level 2 plan    
  • Long section    
  • Short section    
  • General arrangement plan B1, zones 5 and 6    
  • General arrangement plan, roof level    
  • Cave Privee detailed section, long section 3, zone BB    
  • General arrangement section C5, D-zone 8    
  • Internal glazed partition detailed section, long section 3, zone CC    
  • Base screen detail    
  • Roof coverings exploded typical roof buildup    

Rogers Stirk Harbour’s signature building aims to raise the bar for Scotland’s whisky industry.

Sat within the 150ha site of the 18th-century Easter Elchies House – a designated area of outstanding landscape value – the project’s scale could have overshadowed the historical home. Yet with some careful realigning of the routes into the site and through positioning the new visitor centre’s entrance on an axis with the house, it has refocused the experience for visitors to Macallan, drawing a focus towards Easter Elchies.

A long and high retaining wall clad in black polished concrete, inspired by Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial in Washington, guides the way to the entrance. In time, lush planting will grow up to the sides further disguising the building in the landscape. 

The roof, with its five undulating hill-like grassy mounds, could be seen as whimsical but each mound serves a purpose. The tallest marks the visitor centre, while the other four slightly lower mounds represent the circular arrangements of copper whisky stills beneath. Externally the mounds break up what would otherwise be a large linear structure, while inside, it is this roof that acts as a singular gesture – a flowing glulam and lumber structure that spans the whole distillery. 

The roof takes the form of a laminated veneered lumber (LVL) orthogonal grid-shell, covered with a pre-grown Scottish wildflower blanket. The roof undulates with equal rhythm over four process cells below and is then pulled higher to the south where the roof accentuates and highlights the visitor experience and point of entry.

The vision of the RSHP team to blend the building into the landscape and then arrange the stills on a circular template defined the design. Creating enough height above the stills to naturally release hot, buoyant air called for a dome-like form, which developed into the ‘hills’ above each still-set. 

Though giving the appearance of a buried structure, the building was constructed in open-cut and above ground. The earth was removed to expose a platform on which to construct the building, and then recycled to back-fill the site. This ‘immersed’ the building into the landscape. Carefully detailed waterproofing collected rainwater which is then reused to irrigate the seeded landscape that covers the whole of the building.  


  • Completed: May 2018
  • Floor area: 14,800m2
  • Sectors: Industrial, Arts and culture
  • Address: Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, AB38 9RX, United Kingdom

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