TOPO DistilleryTask: Redesign the interior of the distillery to be more aesthetically pleasing to visitors, as well as serve a functional purpose for the numerous tour groups that come each week. Result: Taste-Testing Bar
Top of the Hill (TOPO) is the only distillery in the South that handcrafts and bottles its spirits (Vodka, Piedmont Gin, & Carolina Whiskey) from scratch using local and organic ingredients- 100% organic soft red winter wheat from Scotland Neck, NC.
TOPO’s distillery is located in a repurposed warehouse that used to hold the massive printing presses for the Chapel Hill News & Observer. The building has a very industrial aura with 50 feet ceilings, exposed piping and conduits, and concrete flooring. While this interior works well for the actual distillation of spirits that occurs on site, it was not the most welcoming for the 100’s of visitors who come into the distillery every week for guided tours of the distilling process.
My team was tasked with finding a way to design a portion of the interior so that it would be more welcoming to guests. Knowing that taste-testing is a key component to the tours at the distillery, it was decided that a large bar should be created so that the tour guides could store their materials safely and the tour participants could sit and relax while enjoying their drinks. A bar would also serve as a natural magnet for visitors so that they wouldn’t wander into the production side of the facility.
We had a constrained budget to accomplish the redesign so we decided to incorporate some of the leftover equipment from the warehouse’s days as a printing press into our work. By repurposing an old, steel conveyor belt frame that had been left behind we were able to save on the cost and labor of building the majority of the bar, and after some touch-ups it helped retain the industrial feeling of the building.
The existing flooring in our work area had been badly damaged from the previous owner’s use, and was a terrible eye-sore. Instead of trying to repave the floor (which would have been time-intensive and disruptive as it dried) we elected to build an elevated wood platform for the bar to sit on. The wood flooring would be more inviting for guests to stand on in contrast to the cement paving surrounding it, and it also would allow the distillery to remove the platform if they decided to redo the entire floor.
Large stretched canvas panels were included in the background design with colorful imagery so that the bar would be a focal point for visitors’ eyes in contrast to the gray-scale machinery that surrounded it. Casks of whiskey were used to fill in the empty space below the conveyor belt so that it became a solid structure and the branding was evident. The casks also provided a talking point for the tour guides to talk about the aging process and to push the “Age Your Own Whiskey Kits” that the distillery sold.