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Sheppard Robson wins planning for Manchester theatre revamp

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Sheppard Robson has been given the go-ahead to rework Manchester’s ‘maverick’ 1990s Contact Theatre originally designed by Alan Short and Associates


The scheme, which the AJ100 practice landed last February, will remodel the existing venue’s entrance, box office, café and bar, while adding a 300m² three-storey extension. 

It will also provide additional performance and conference facilities as well as new office accommodation and community space. 

The ‘distinctive’ building was originally completed in 1999 by Alan Short, who is currently a professor or architecture at the University of Cambrdige

Matt Fenton, artistic director and chief executive of Contact, said: ‘The expanded Contact building will cement our national role as a hub for the training and development of future talent, on and off stage, with a focus on working with young people from the widest range of social, racial and economic backgrounds.

’It will also provide the best possible environment for audiences to experience our diverse public programme.’

The scheme is expected to complete in 2018.  

Contact by Sheppard Robson

Contact by Sheppard Robson

Sheppard Robson’s transformation of the Contact Theatre in Manchester (new elements show in yellow)

Architect’s view 

Sheppard Robson’s proposals are designed to sit respectfully alongside the distinctive 1990s building designed by Alan Short and Associates, whilst providing an eye-catching addition to the south-facing elevation; this will make the building and the activities that take place inside it much more visible from Oxford Road. The new three storey extension adopts a pitched roof form with individual elements of the new accommodation carefully articulated, and will be finished in pearlescent metal. This material will change in character reflecting different qualities of light throughout the day. 

Corridor Manchester is becoming the scientific, educational and cultural spine of the city. It is important that Contact, with its international reputation, is properly visible in this setting as an organisation uniquely able to bridge these activities, and to provide access for young people and local communities. Our design for Contact seeks to build on the existing building’s distinctive character whilst providing better space for Contact’s artistic programme for years to come. 

The Contact Theatre

The Contact Theatre

Source: Joel Chester Fildes

Completed in 1999, the Contact Theatre was designed by Alan Short and Associates

Project data 

Location Manchester
Type of project cultural, refurbishment
Client Contact
Architect Sheppard Robson
Theatre consultant Theatre Projects
Structural engineer Civic
M&E consultant Max Fordham
Acoustics Max Fordham
Quantity surveyor Simon Fenton Partnership
Completion date Spring 2018


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