The iconic Manchester Town Hall closed its doors to the public on 1 January 2018 and will reopen in its full glory in 2024 after an extensive refurbishment.
The Town Hall first opened to the public over 140 years ago and since then has been subject to the stresses and strains that many historic buildings face. The project aims to repair defects, renew the building services including replacing the wiring and plumbing, and add modern facilities like communication links that will make the building more functional, sustainable and easier to maintain.
Purcell has been appointed as the architect for the refurbishment of the Grade I-listed Manchester Town Hall. The repair and upgrade project will bring the 1877 building, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, up to ’modern access and safety standards’ and will include the restoration of the Great Hall and its Ford Madox Brown murals. External repairs include work on the roof, stonework and drains.
A collaborative and multidisciplinary team, including apprentices, is on site and has undertaken investigations using cherry pickers, drones and the latest technology to photograph the roof, chimneys and clock tower. This information has directly informed our final design. We have shared this knowledge as part of our commitment to wider engagement, learning, training and legacy. A genuine commitment to enhancing skills and opportunities for local people is embedded in the project.
The project team have carried out extensive research into the building, the collection of artefacts and Albert Square. This has led to a detailed understanding of the history and heritage significance, which has informed the team on the capacity for change and the basis of our approach to design solutions and conservation philosophy.
A detailed survey has been undertaken both internally and externally to determine necessary repairs. The aim is to restore the building to future-proof it for generations to come. When Manchester Town Hall is re-opened to the public, it is essential that it is fit for its civic purpose as an accessible public building and visitor destination. Extensive surveying of the historic building services has helped us to understand how the building was designed to operate. The design team have used this information to develop proposals for the electrics, ICT, lighting, heating, ventilation and acoustics which respect the historic function of the building whilst increasing efficiency and lowering the carbon footprint.
Current barriers to access into and around the building will be addressed and fully inclusive lifts and other facilities will be provided throughout. The building will retain its traditional function as accommodation for City Council leadership and staff, the Lord Mayor, official functions and civic events such as weddings but with the addition of a visitor centre to show some of the fabulous collections.
The visitor experience will be transformed by providing a dedicated exhibition space to interpret the history of the building and the Town Hall collection, as well as being able to accommodate guided tours to features of historic interest around the building. As preparation for this, the Town Hall collection has been fully catalogued prior to storage and will be conserved before being re-displayed to the public. The work is expected to take seven years to complete.
Purcell has realised our vision for the project exceptionally well. The creative and intellectual input is first class, and you respond to the many challenges we throw at you with good grace and a commitment to always deliver, often to demanding deadlines.
The work required to repair and upgrade the Town Hall will demand real expertise and dedication, so we have selected our consultants with great care. We look forward to working with them on this once-in-a-lifetime project, which will secure and enhance the long-term future of Manchester’s treasured civic centrepiece.