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As well as an outstanding example of the city’s architectural heritage, the museum is a symbol of its Victorian spirit of discovery and public education. Opened in 1890, the Grade 2 Listed buildings form part of a quadrangle conceived by Alfred Waterhouse, the design of which was completed by his son Paul. In addition to its 4 million relics, it is also a world-class centre for research and scholarship. Over a ten year period, the practice collaborated with the museum to realise a new vision for the collections and to restore the grandeur of their historic surroundings.

The project objectives that evolved were complex and wide-ranging, they demanded restoration and adaption of existing fabric along with sensitive insertion of new structures. Central to the scheme was the conservation and thematic display of the collections. However, new public services and temporary exhibition spaces have also contributed to the sustainability of the museum. The works comprised three phases that were completed while the museum continued to operate with all its artifacts remaining on-site.

A new lead-clad building provides an entrance, 3 additional galleries and strategic links between the original buildings. A new glazed ‘bridge’ allows the collections to be experienced in a logical and fully accessible sequence. While these insertions are undoubtedly contemporary, they are also sympathetic to the existing fabric. The sensitive incorporation of modern systems, to provide a controlled environment and adequate lighting in the original galleries, demanded extreme care and fastidious attention to restoration and conservation.

Project information

  • Client

    Manchester Museum

  • Status


  • Area

    8,640 sq m

  • Start


  • Completion


  • Consultants

    Structural Engineer: Faber Maunsell
    Building Services Engineer: IBSEC
    Cost Manager: Rex Proctor and Partners
    Project Managers: Appleyard and Trew

  • Elements

    Exterior of existing buildings and external areas
    Entrance and circulation
    New gallery for temporary exhibitions
    Redisplay existing galleries
    Environmental control
    Teaching facilities
    Staff/management support facilities

  • Awards

    2003 Manchester Civic Society, Phoenix Design Award
    2004 Civic Trust Award