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As No.1 Spinningfields is a landmark workplace building in Manchester, we wanted a connection to the cities heritage as the centre of the cotton industry in the 19th century. This led us to explore designs for a pattern based on the chemical composition of cotton that could be used for the design of typically overlooked aspects of a building and particularly for buildings of such scale. The pattern was applied to the external wind break totems located near the entrance of the restaurant, 20 Stories, to disperse the wind, providing pedestrian comfort, and for the M&S retail unit privacy screens located on the ground floor.

The difficulty with designing the pattern was that it had to work both practically and aesthetically. We had to develop a pattern that could be laser cut into aluminium panels to give privacy to the retail unit back of house areas, whilst still allowing in sufficient levels of light. The wind break totems had to work functionally to mitigate wind, so a certain percentage of porosity had to be achieved.

The pattern options we designed were numerous. Our model shop team helped out by producing 1:1 pieces of each proposed pattern, which we tested to ensure the scale was not only visually acceptable but also functional.

The totems are made of anodised aluminium due to the metal’s longevity. Originally, they were specified to be the same colour as the steelwork, but as designs progressed, we agreed that a contrasting bronze is visually more effective. An inscription on the back of the totems note that the pattern is the “Chemical composition of cotton” for curious passers-by. From a functional perspective, we had to make sure the pattern dimensions were not too great to pose risks of hands getting caught and that any litter could be removed from the totem by raising it up slightly from the ground.

The privacy screens are also made from anodised aluminium but are the same colour as the steelwork. The screens are set back from the glass to allow air movement between the panel and glazing and are also raised up to assist with cleaning. The pattern on the privacy screens is particularly captivating after dark when light shines through them, giving interest to the streetscape.

What I enjoyed most about working on an often overlooked aspect of the building, is that the resulting pattern adds depth to the overall building design. No.1 Spinningfields is a very ordered building, so this thought provoking small detail breaks away from the vast scale of the building. There is also a nice synergy with the cotton bobbins outside Cartwright Pickard’s building at the other end of Spinningfields, so wherever you enter Spinningfields, there is a connection to Manchester’s heritage.