Vertical shop window: Gallery space in Manchester
Text: Peter Popp
An extensive system of stairs and ramps transects an expansive new gallery space at Manchester School of Art and fosters interdisciplinary exchange.
Architects: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, London
Location: Higher Ormond St, Manchester M15 6BG, UK
Manchester School of Art was established in 1838 to strengthen the competitiveness of regional crafts and branches of industry and lead them onto the international marketplace. This objective is still of validity today. The second oldest art school in Great Britain still helps bridge the gap between education and professional life and last year celebrated its 175th anniversary.
A multifunctional extension attracted plenty of attention right on time for the jubilee. The seven-floor building, which fulfils the purpose of linking the school's design studio with its arts tower building, features a spectacular gallery space that rises through all the storeys, thus ensuring internal exchange and outer presence behind the visually reticent facade.
The new gallery acts as a huge shop window and in its sheer visibility signalises the greatest possible openness while encouraging interest in the creative work that goes on behind the façade. In a modern interpretation by Feilden Clegg Bradley, the typology takes its inspiration from the traditional warehouses of Manchester's 19th- century heyday centred on the textile trade.
The vertical articulation of the space is an integral part of the concept and seeks to break down traditional hierarchies and foster creative collaboration between the individual areas of study.
The commonalities of the various disciplines are stressed by opening up the space as far as possible and according the same significance to each one of the subject areas. Numerous ramps and bridges cross the space, serving as informal "short cuts" between fashion and film, art and architecture, graphics and photography in order to foster interchange between these disciplines. The formally accentuated box-type lattice girders in steel and wood are an explicit call to communication and exchange.
The extension building designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley acts as a spatial hybrid in that it is an art studio, workshop and exhibition space in one, plus on open days the tightly-choreographed space becomes an interactive forum for contact and networking.
In an eight-minute film, students, architects, planners and faculty staff talk about the refurbishment and building measures at Manchester School of Art:
„Our new building was a chance to design a space, that celebrates the inter-relation of our various fuzzy edged disciplines and encourages our 21st century students to work alongside each other and enjoy the crossover rather than concentrating always on the differences. It is also a building that is proud of its product and shows the work to everyone who everything is relevant...It’s a hugely exciting arena where anything is possible and everything is relevant.”
(David Crow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design)
Thanks to a lively combination of spatial multifunctionality and an associative form idiom, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios have created a new, architecturally exciting gallery space that celebrates the commonalities of the various disciplines as its central motif while exuding openness and literally building bridges to encourage conceptual crossover.
Client: Manchester Metropolitan University
Structural engineering: Arup
Project management: Turner & Townsend
General contractor: Morgan Sindall
Landscape architecture: Dan Pearson Studio