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MOSI to get glassed in £7m refurb started

Big glass blocks to be stuck on to the main museum building – heavy or what?

Published on December 8th 2009.

MOSI to get glassed in £7m refurb started

This is how the £7 million refurbishment of the Main Building at MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) will look when completed.

All the above is from an exemplary press release which tells it as it is: aside from verbal diarrhoea from Mr Shatwell (ho, ho) with all those 'fabulous' and 'stunning' adjectives. And it is true that the ridiculous ramp in the Main Building is the most comprehensive waste of space in a building since the last 'Britain's Got Talent' auditions. What were BDP thinking in 1987?

The nine month project which has just started will see the grade II listed former warehouse transformed to make better use of the available space and offer improved orientation for visitors. As part of the redevelopment, a new Revolution Manchester gallery will be created on the ground floor. This will display iconic objects relating to the city’s industrial and technological achievements, telling the story of Manchester past, present and future.

Museum Director, Steve Davies MBE, said: “MOSI currently attracts more than 700,000 visitors per year. However, although the Main Building is a wonderful example of the city’s industrial heritage, it was designed as a warehouse rather than a museum. As MOSI’s reputation grows, we now need to make better use of the space we have available to enable us to become a truly world-class cultural attraction, aiming for the magic one million visitors mark.”

Funding for the project has been confirmed from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which granted £2million, the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) which granted £2million, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Garfield Weston, SITA, and a number of other trusts and foundations.

The work will include the removal of the metal ramps which cut through the heart of the 130-year-old building, taking up over 1,000 m2 of space. The internal stairwells and lifts will also be moved onto the outside wall, freeing up more space inside the building.

A new main entrance will take visitors straight into the orientation area, rather than through the coffee shop as at present. They will then walk into the Revolution Manchester gallery where some of Manchester’s leading inventions and objects will be on display, acting as an orientation point between the museum’s various galleries. It will also provide a focal point for MOSI’s work with Industrial Powerhouse, which celebrates the North West’s rich industrial heritage through a range of attractions, events and trails.

The restaurant and conferencing suite will be moved to the front of the building, on the first and second floors respectively, with larger kitchens and better facilities to cater for increased visitor numbers and conferencing guests.

The popular hands-on Experiment gallery, which currently attracts thousands of children every year, will be expanded and moved from the second floor to the first floor, with its own dedicated space, complete with toilets, lockers and picnic areas.

Four new classrooms will be constructed to further develop the museum’s educational programme which already benefits a total of 100,000 schoolchildren every year.

The boiler, which powers the museum’s historic collection of working steam engines in the Power Hall will be moved from its current home in the basement of the Main Building, to make way for the construction work. Extra toilets and lockers will be installed in the basement.

David Shatwell, of architects Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams, said: “This is a fabulous opportunity to improve the visitor experience creating a stunning first impression for visitors and a clear new orientation space. By opening up many sections of the historic warehouse, we are expressing its true scale and architectural character, while providing a highly appropriate setting to a wide range of exhibits.”

All the above is from an exemplary press release which tells it as it is: aside from verbal diarrhoea from Mr Shatwell (ho, ho) with all those 'fabulous' and 'stunning' adjectives. And it is true that the ridiculous ramp in the Main Building is the most comprehensive waste of space in a building since the last 'Britain's Got Talent' auditions. What were BDP thinking in 1987?

But internal workings aside externally that pair of stairwell extensions in glass look forbidding. Take a look at the picture taken today and there's a nice rhythm to the 1880s building, of gable following gable. This will be destroyed by the heavy glass protrusions. The grim squared off look also seems to clash with the curved rear stairwell by Austin Smith Lord in 2000 – glimpsed at the back of the building in both views here. Maybe there should have been some thought to continuing that motif in the new work?

Still working with listed buildings must often lead to compromise. Confidential thinks in this case that the need to get the main building and that ramp sorted was the greater priority.

Another interesting contrast is provided by the massive plans for Revolution MOSI a couple of years ago – plans which came at the wrong time and were deemed too ambitious at £54m. The illustration shows how fantastical, in an appealing way, they were.

Incidentially the present project is the first phase of the second attempt at a more conservative Revolution MOSI, which will eventually include the redevelopment of the Air & Space Hall on Lower Byrom Street and a new Road Transport Gallery in Upper Campfield Market on Liverpool Road.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Anthony McCaulDecember 8th 2009.

Interesting stuff - not convinced about the outside stairwells thingys tho. Shame the other plans were binned - i think they looked much more exciting. I do wonder if MOSI has been in touch with local residents on Liverpool Road who'll be impacted by these changes to the museum building... Lets get 'em along to the next Castlefield Forum so we can hear all about if from the horses mouth!

Diane InglisDecember 8th 2009.

MOSI is already in consultation with local residents and is holding its second residents' meeting here on Tuesday December 15th from 6pm - 8pm, with mulled wine and mince pies. All welcome.

Diane InglisDecember 8th 2009.

The ramps were designed in 1987 by Ian Simpson.

beijingtzlDecember 8th 2009.

Did Ian Simpson work for BDP in the 1980s then - I thought the ramps were his design?

Sarah RoeDecember 8th 2009.

The next chance to comment on MOSI's plans will be at the Castlefield Forum on 19 January in Dukes 92. Speak to Tony Hill from MOSI with your views.

beijingtzlDecember 8th 2009.

Did Ian Simpson work for BDP in the 1980s then - I thought the ramps were his design?

Ali McGowanDecember 8th 2009.

Due to an Xmas function I am unable to attend tomorrow... is there somewhere I can leave my feedback? If not, it's as follows: I quite like these new glass protrusions - BUT I don't think they are the right solution for this situation - they will (pretty much) permanently change that magnificent facade of the warehouse - and detract from it. As pieces of design they are simple and clean, but it's the way they'll wreck that side of the warehouse where they are going wrong. Is there no spare land on the back (north-ish) side to put these stairwells, thus keeping this southern(ish!) side clean and tidy?? Seems a real, real shame. (I am very glad more is being done at MOSI, even if the name MOSI sounds ridiculous, but would prefer to see it done 'right' and not to the detriment of a magnificent old edifice.)

Diane InglisDecember 8th 2009.

We have done a leaflet drop to local residents today and an email will be going out shortly. Feel free to get in touch if you need any more info.

GrahamDecember 8th 2009.

Hopefully this will indeed be phase one of a redevelopment programme that will be the sum total of the '£54m master plan'. The Aircraft halls could definitely do with a face-lift and handled with care could potentially be a star feature of the museum.

AnonymousDecember 8th 2009.

I live directly opposite the museum on Lower Byrom Street. this is the first I have heard of the second resident's meeting, although I did know about and attend the first one. Are you going to inform the other residents ?

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