Purcell adds South Asian wing to museum in Manchester

Jewel Within a Jewel

Ulf Meyer
26. de març 2023
Photo: Beccy Lane

In the case of the new gallery that also houses traveling exhibitions, Purcell's task was also about adding a new design element: The glazed terracotta tiles mark the new element in the historic courtyard that is part of the University of Manchester. The new scheme improves accessibility and circulation by introducing a new main entrance to Oxford Road. The tightly constrained site is surrounded by historical buildings on three sides. The designers considered the impact of their scheme on views of and from the existing buildings. The original Manchester Museum was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, and the client for the new museum was the University of Manchester. 

A glass facade connects the old and new. (Photo: Beccy Lane)

The color and texture of the facade was inspired by South Asian culture. The three-story steel framing is clad in limestone below and green terracotta above. The ground floor consists of a concrete slab on metal deck. Glulam timber slabs were used for the first and roof floor slab. This hybrid construction can withstand heavy artifacts and is part of the environmental design strategy. The gallery achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ standard. The low embodied energy, its durability, and low maintenance make the handmade faience terracotta a sustainable material.

Rear elevation (Drawing: Purcell Architects)

The ground floor design is simple and flexible for hosting temporary exhibitions. The first floor houses a permanent loan from the British Museum and the South Asia Gallery, plus an area for live performances. 

Both exhibition spaces have high-level environmental control and security. Air tightness was balanced with breathability. The glazed exhibition hall has blinds and roller shutters to give it greater flexibility.

The ceilings are clad in wood lattice. (Photo: Beccy Lane)

Overall, the idea of designing the museum extension sensitive to its historic setting without its design being overly submissive seems perfectly appropriate for a historic courtyard that is known as one of the jewels of the UK’s second city.

Skylights bring daylight into the depth of the galleries. (Photo: Beccy Lane)

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