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Epic Buildings: Manchester Town Hall Complex Transformation

Nominated for the Building Awards Building Magazine Project of the Year 2015, the Manchester Town Hall Complex Transformation was a huge, ambitious undertaking. Implemented to transform Manchester’s town hall and library complex into a space suitable for diverse and contemporary public use, the project would involve refurbishing two of Manchester’s finest historic, Grade II listed buildings, reshaping the city’s iconic St Peter’s Square and blending sensitive historical refurbishment with a sincere need for modernisation.

From physically connecting both the town hall and the central library, to turning the historic council chamber into a more energy efficient space, this was a challenging project comprised of a huge number of different facets and considerations.

With redesign provided by Ian Simpson Architects and implementation impressively delivered by Laing O’Rourke, the parties involved needed to be able to effortlessly juggle many different demands, skills and concerns to pull this redevelopment off, without compromising the integrity of the original structures. Oh, and it required a whole lot of internal scaffolding too…

Working with English Heritage to preserve the history of the building, the team cut through seven floors, installed staircases, added glass lifts and implemented a services riser to give the building a “feature core” – all while respecting the structure’s rich heritage.

The redevelopment was a long time coming. As with many old structures, the facilities available at Manchester town hall were no longer fit for purpose, leaving the city badly in need of a space that would allow the council to offer a much more customer-friendly experience, and deliver better services on a much more space- and cost-efficient basis. This dream was hampered by the old building’s traditional long corridors and dark, cellular spaces.

There was much work to do at the library too. Prior to the renovation 70% of the building was “back room space” with just 30% available to the public. Today these figures have been reversed giving the public more room to enjoy the city’s stunning facilities.

What do you make of the new renovation? Have you worked on radical revamps of listed buildings before? What was your experience? Share your thoughts with other tradespeople below.