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Central Library And Town Hall Extension: Photos From The Refurb

Jonathan Schofield gets an exclusive peek inside the biggest refurbishment job in Britain

Published on January 27th 2012.


Central Library And Town Hall Extension: Photos From The Refurb

THESE are exclusive pictures from Manchester Central Library and Manchester Town Hall Extension of the refurbishment taking place there.

The pictures below give a glimpse of the vast project taking place to turn these behemoths of civic pride and ambition into modern structures. It's a stirring story and suitably epic in scale.  

The £130m project for the two 1930s buildings will see one re-invented as a multi-purpose library able to cope with the digital demands of the 21st century, and the other as spanking new offices for the City Council.

The two buildings will be connected by a wide and generous underground link; part of the library service, the Henry Watson Music Library, will move into the extension. 

The new library will feature performance spaces, community galleries, exhibition areas for Manchester's extraordinary special book collections, catering areas....and don't worry lots of space and space for books. There will also be a gathering together from various sites of all the local studies, family history and archive collections. 

Neil MacInnes - Director of LibrariesNeil MacInnes - Director of LibrariesNeil MacInnes, director of Manchester libraries, says, "70% was inaccessible to the public in Central Library, now 70% will be open to Manchester people and visitors. It's going to be Manchester's living room."

The buildings, both designed back in the day by Emanuel Vincent Harris, should re-open to the public in 2014. The architects presently working on Extension and Library are Ian Simpson Architects and Ryder Architects.

Our visit was timed to coincide with the completion of most of the deconstruction phase, and the start of the rebuild and restitution phase. The expense of the joint project is largely down to working sensitively in eighty year old buildings. Simply clearing out the municipal clutter in the Town Hall Extension has been a major project, and all of it monitored by English Heritage. 

For example to cover flooring tiles, stairs and other fixtures and fittings, with a protective sheath of wood in the two vast buildings, has cost £500k. In the Town Hall Extension around 600 doors had to be removed with 400 of the best preserved of them being meticulously and lovingly restored within the building.

This is a labour of love for so many of the people working on the site.

Graham Fenton - Civil EngineerGraham Fenton - Civil EngineerThe enthusiasm of Graham Fenton, the civil engineer from contractor Laing O’Rourke, in charge of the Central Library and our guide, is utterly infectious.

"I've lived in Manchester for 40 years so to be leading this project makes me very proud. We find things out about the building all the time as well."

"For example," he says after a prompt, "Vincent Harris the architect went to America to study how new libraries were being constructed there, and brought techniques back that were being used in skyscrapers. The building was ten years ahead of its time in Europe." 

Fenton is particularly proud of the way most things are being done on site and proud of the creativity that has to be used in finding engineering solutions.

For instance the complexity of the operation needed for a new stairway to be installed in the Library is staggering. It involves the careful jigging about of load-bearing girders, the bringing of a large new stairway through a window, and then a delicate process while it is jacked up through all the levels.

In another space the gorgeous wooden pilasters have to be kept at a constant temperature around 15 degrees C and at 60% humidity.

The pictures below give a glimpse of the vast project taking place to turn these behemoths of civic pride and ambition into modern structures. It's a stirring story and suitably epic in scale.  

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

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

Chrissy BrandJanuary 27th 2012.

Amazing peek at the insides- still a long way to go...

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2012.

glad i dont have to work in there anymore, however nice it may look once finished lol.

Catherine HeatonJanuary 30th 2012.

very exciting to get to see all this. Thank you!!!

Kevin PeelJanuary 31st 2012.

Words cannot express how excited I am about this. Jonathan you get to do all the fun things!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan Fun SchofieldJanuary 31st 2012.

My middle name is fun

Stephen DouglasJanuary 31st 2012.

Can't wait for it to reopen - I spent many a lazy hour browsing through random books in the technical library as a teenager.

Hero
Jordan McDowellJanuary 31st 2012.

SO EXCITED! It is such an amazing place!

Janie1509February 1st 2012.

I love that this building is being given the adoration and attention it deserves. Can't wait to see the finished building!

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2012.

Are you all for real? this looks like yet more cultural vandalism why does such a lovely building have to move with the times anyway? Let other people like it or lump it - it belongs to the people of Manchester, not a reckless bunch of fascist councillors. Why not preserve this as an architectural piece and keep it the way it was originally designed? People will still use it if they need it. What a waste of taxpayers money when all they needed to do was make the basement watertight so that previous leaks do not get to the more valuable precious works that perished a while back? What has happened to all of the wooden desks and shelving that gave the building character? has this gone forever? This has really upset me having fond memories of being a student and marvelling at the expanses of bookshelves and the peace and quiet. It was a place of sanctuary and contemplation and this should remain as such, as all libraries should.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
gimboidMarch 18th 2012.

And what about when they don't need it? When, in it's original form, it becomes unfit for purpose and unable to provide a useful function for people? Your attitude is out of touch with reality, and really quite selfish.

Patrick CrawleyApril 24th 2013.

Alas, libraries are no longer temples of culture and the pursuit of intellectual improvement. They are playgrounds and entertainment centres. Manchester councillors think 'New' is better. Most teenagers and young adults would not agree. The councillors are deluded. It is a shame that they get paid.

Ghostly TomJuly 20th 2012.

Can't wait to see it when it reopens. I so miss going in there.

AnonymousMay 2nd 2013.

Great !

RoyApril 12th 2014.

I tried to renew my lapsed membership but the gentleman on the information desk was so arrogant and conceited I decided no to bother Roy

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 2nd 2014.

You got a bad one then, Roy. I'd encourage you to give it another go as most of the staff there are super helpful. Me and my other half went in at different times and both had a good experience. Great revamp though, eh?

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