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First look at Simpson and Ryder's Manchester town hall refurb

These are the first images of Ian Simpson and Ryder Architecture’s proposed refurbishment of Manchester’s Grade II*-listed Town Hall Extension and Central Library

These are the first images of the proposed refurbishment of Manchester’s Grade II*-listed Town Hall Extension and Central Library. The scheme is part of a wider £165 million programme to improve customer services and access to the buildings and includes the overhaul of the neighbouring St Peter’s Square, currently subject to an international competition.

Ian Simpson Architects’ proposals for the extension include opening up the lower levels and adding a new customer service centre, café and exhibition spaces. Ryder Architecture’s plans for the library include adding a steel and glass ‘circulation core’ and removing the majority of book stacks below then main hall to create a new ‘welcoming’ basement space beneath.

The team hopes to secure planning permission by the end of the year and for the library to re-open in late 2013.

Ryder Architecture's plans to transform the central library (Manchester) - section

Ryder Architecture’s plans to transform the central library (Manchester) - section

The architects’ view

David Green, project architect at Ian Simpson Architects


A key idea has been opening up the courtyard to create connections between different levels and taking natural light through the building. We are also bringing back some spectacular internal spaces, including the grand, curved, stone-lined Payments (Rates) Hall.

The main challenge has been balancing this transformation vision against the historic fabric

However, in many ways, E Vincent Harris’ neo-Gothic design for the Town Hall Extension helps the low-carbon strategy – the high ceilings, large windows, narrow floorplates and heavy masonry and exposed concrete soffits all support natural ventilation.

The extension and central library projects have progressed simultaneously, to similar deadlines, and we have enjoyed the collaborative approach to the project and the opportunity to work closely with another architect. It has been interesting, and often enlightening, to see how another designer approaches a similar problem.

Lee Taylor, project architect at Ryder Architecture

The main project drivers are to provide an environment in which visitor numbers can be increased from one to two million per annum and allow greater public access to historic and archive material.

We want the refurbished central library to be a place where people want to be. It will appeal to new and existing users alike and provide increased access to a wider range of material and activities. It will support transformation in the delivery of library and archive services. Through a new, linked, city lending library located within town hall extension and containing modern content and a children’s library, central library will have clarity of purpose as the regional hub for historic and archive material

The building is an intriguing hybrid of 1930s technology and classical architecture, a hallmark of E Vincent Harris’ work. Nothing is quite as it appears; a concealed steel frame is clad internally in Manu marble tile and render giving the appearance of stone, and apparently solid perimeter walls contain air plenums and routing for integrated services distribution.

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