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Initially founded as a natural history museum in 1821, Manchester Museum was designed by renowned architect, Alfred Waterhouse. The museum is home to a vast collection of exhibits that illustrate the cultural diversity of Manchester and the surrounding area.

Launched in 2018, ‘Hello Future’ is a major project to develop and transform the museum’s social purpose to encourage diverse communities to visit the museum. As part of the project, Purcell were commissioned to design an extension to the museum which, when complete, will house travelling exhibitions and a permanent gallery showcasing Southeast Asian culture. The project is currently onsite.

Brief

Hello Future is a £13m project, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund which aims to develop and transform Manchester Museum. Purcell were commissioned to design the museum’s new gallery and exhibition space in addition to improving the museum’s accessibility and circulation through the introduction of a new main entrance to Oxford Road, foyer and visitor facilities. The new gallery extension will sit within the museum’s historic courtyard of grade II and II* listed buildings which form part of the University of Manchester.

The museum is a fantastic free resource in the heart of Manchester with outstanding world class exhibitions. The museum aims to expand and diversify its audience and we're delighted that Purcell’s extension will be the country’s first dedicated gallery to Southeast Asian culture.

Associate, Tom Brigden

Wayfinding and accessibility

Our steel-framed extension will house a permanent 3,000 sq ft South Asia Gallery on the first floor. The extension has been designed to achieve a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ requirement in-line with the museum’s sustainability strategy. It will also provide a dedicated performance space enabling the museum to show live performance originating from and inspired by South Asia - an important facet of the museum’s strategic vision to broaden visitor access.

Our team have also reconsidered the museum’s principal entrance, with the aim of creating a more visible and welcoming first impression for visitors. This includes designing new orientation spaces and the museum’s shop, with accessibility and intuitive wayfinding at the forefront of considerations.

The new extension will be clad in green-glazed terracotta - a material which characterises Manchester’s architectural landscape. Our contemporary design pays homage to the fantastic Victorian and Edwardian period buildings that feature historic terracotta tiles throughout the city.

Community engagement
Purcell's design of Manchester Museum's new extension

In every stage of its development, the project has brought many community groups together, especially from Manchester's Southeast Asian communities. As part of this, our team led a successful public consultation event with the support of the museum’s Learning and Engagement team. The event offered 250 visitors of all ages, along with key stakeholders, the opportunity to engage with development plans and understand the nature of the proposed works for the museum’s redevelopment.

There have been an excellent series of workshops held with various communities to engage different groups of people about how they would like aspects of their culture to be best represented and interpreted.The extension will be a world-class space for the display of cultural artifacts, but also for the curation of music, song and dance. The completed project will transform the museum’s visitor experience and both better reflect, and engage with, the diverse communities within Manchester and the North-West more generally.

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