Morgan Motor Gets a Makeover in Malvern

Hewitt Studios repurposes existing buildings for a new experience.

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Beautiful Morgan Motor Cars parked in a mod lot

Morgan Motor Company

Paul Younger of Hewitt Studios starts his note to Treehugger about a car showroom renovation, with an understatement: "I realize that automobiles aren't necessarily the most sustainable subject."

But we love renovations, repurposing, and wood construction, and certainly consider that sustainable. And hey, the cars we are talking about here are made by Morgan, and are actually built out of wood! Could we actually call them "sustainable"? Younger makes a case:

"Morgan's are pretty unique – they have been making cars on the same site since 1914, employing generations of local craftsmen to construct their cars from three (reusable, recyclable) core elements: ash timber, aluminium, and leather. Crucially, Morgan cars are some of the longest living cars on the planet – on request the factory will still produce any part for any car, ever!"
Sign with car

Morgan Motor Company

The UK project involved renovating the café, museum, showroom spaces, and creating a new Experience Centre, with a "Jewel Box" display for the "hero car." Younger notes:

"Consistent with a brand that prides itself on ethical sourcing, natural materials and local craftsmanship, our solution had a strong focus on sustainability – a series of low-carbon interventions designed to improve building thermal performance, increase natural daylight, reduce energy consumption, reduce surface water run-off and provide for end-of-life recycling of materials."
LVL structure
LVL beams and columns.

Morgan Motor Company

The renovation work all utilized prefabricated timber structures that allude to the ash construction of the Morgan body frame, using Metzawood Kerto LVL (laminated veneer lumber; see our explanation of different engineered woods here).

Canopy wood

Morgan Motor Company

LVL is described as "carbon-sequestering, with only certified timber from sustainably managed forests being used (along with formaldehyde-free adhesives). The timbers are also reusable, recyclable and easily disposable (as biomass fuel)." It is easy to work with, has better acoustics, and has better thermal stability than steel.

We have often complained that a building should be more like a car; James Timberlake once noted that you can drive the cheapest Hyundai into a thunderstorm at 70 miles per hour and it wouldn't leak, yet many buildings can't be left out in the rain. We have also quoted the prefab home salespeople, who say "you wouldn't build a car in your driveway, why would you build a house outside?" So it would make sense that a car manufacturer would be interested in a prefab, engineered solution:

"The client themselves were instrumental in the choice of offsite timber technologies - they wanted the project to be undertaken as quickly and as safely as possible and saw prefabrication as the solution to this. As a car manufacturer they are accustomed to efficient production methods (, just in time, etc.) and very much wanted this project to adopt a similar approach on this project."

Paul Younger describes the various components of the building:

Jewl Box
Jewel Box.

Morgan Motor Company

"The Jewel Box is a simple rectilinear space with a restrained ‘goal-post’ structural form to ensure that ‘the car is the star.'"

Morgan Motor Company

"The entrance canopy uses the same ‘goal-post’ approach, but each bay is twisted in turn by a few degrees to create a soft, organic form reminiscent of a Morgan's rear wing. This creates a peaked gable at each end which, on one side, frames a historic specimen ash tree and, on the other, a perfect long-range view of the Malvern Hills."
Canopy with jewel box in background
Canopy with jewel box in background.

Morgan Motor Company

"Finally, the external car canopy is the most expressive evolution of this technique. Large enough to accommodate 6no. demo cars, the canopy extends along the main elevation of the visitor centre. Gently undulating across its length the canopy evokes the rolling topography of the Malvern Hills. An asymmetric section, with large frontal cantilever, ensures that the cars are all displayed to their best, whilst being protected from the worst of the elements."
Overall view of building

Morgan Mo

It's too bad that Treehugger is so doctrinaire about gasoline-powered cars; one could almost make the case that a car made out of wood, leather, and recyclable aluminum was sustainable; after all, it is a tiny two-seater that weighs less than an American ton, just over 12 feet long, a teensy two-liter engine that emits only 159 grams of CO2 per km. It's built by hand and could last forever. And you can take delivery in a building that employs "sustainably-sourced timber detailed to enable easy dismantling for re-use and / or re-cycling at the end of the structure’s life." 

Showroom interior

Morgan Motor Company

Morgan was planning on making an electric version of their little three-wheeler, but ran into trouble with their powertrain supplier. But Managing Director Steve Morris says the company remains “absolutely committed to an electric future”