The new Special Exhibitions Gallery at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum is complete, six years after the project was born. This Gallery is part of a long-term masterplan project at the museum’s historic site.
The Grade II listed Western Warehouse, built in the 1880s, was originally used as a warehouse with trains driving in at upper ground floor level before their cargo was unloaded and distributed around the building. It was converted into a museum about 20 years ago.
This project has created new visitor areas by linking the Lower Goods Yard with the main museum and establishing a new entrance and flexible gallery space for touring exhibitions.
One of the main aims for this project was to preserve as much of the original fabric as possible. The existing historic structure remains exposed, and many of the new structural additions have been carefully detailed as they remain visible in the finished building.
Another key requirement of the brief was to have a high degree of environmental control for the various touring exhibitions to be displayed within the new Gallery. The heavyweight brick arch and rivetted wrought iron construction at ground floor remains exposed to provide thermal mass and a degree of environmental modulation, meaning that only a small amount of additional control is necessary from the new services. The services have been routed through the existing building and within the basement slab to keep the brick arch ceiling in the Gallery completely uncluttered. This approach required detailed reviews of available archive information and intrusive investigations to confirm the size and location of existing foundations to ensure services could be integrated without disturbing the historic fabric.
To provide flexibility for future exhibitions, discreet hanging points have been detailed and attached to the existing rivetted wrought iron beams. Thorough investigations of the original 1880s structure were required to confirm the capacity of the new hanging points.