Making an unloved 1960s building feel at home in the 21st century.
Designed by Richard Seifert for Manchester Polytechnic’s lighting and drama department, Hilton House had been left to fade and deteriorate as the city’s thriving Northern Quarter had developed around it. A tired façade, outdated and poorly maintained interiors demanded a redevelopment of the largely derelict building, allowing it to feel at home in the 21st century.
A key driver behind the redevelopment was to create a space that would cater for the growing number of digital and IT businesses establishing themselves in area, creating a hub that would add to this burgeoning community. Key to achieving this, was a complete overhaul of the interior to increase the amount if useable space, allowing the building to cater for today’s commercial marketplace.
An extension has been added to the rear of the fourth and fifth floor elevation to match the extent of the third floor, increasing the internal floor area by 2,100 sqft. Dividing walls have been removed to create flexible, open plan floorplates which can be sub-divided to house smaller tech start-ups or used in their entirety, giving businesses the opportunity to expand within the space.
The approach to the interiors retains subtle references to the building’s origin in time while allowing scope for the occupiers to make it their own.
Parquet floors discovered under old carpet have been restored and terracotta ceilings hidden under plasterboard have been uncovered. In the reception, the building’s striking blue spiral staircase has been cleaned and repainted. Beyond this, the approach has been purposefully stripped back with all services suspended and exposed at high level, creating an industrial aesthetic that complements this area of Manchester.
In developing the façade design, the team looked to Seifert’s work at the Centre Point in London to guide the approach. There, a simpler and more recessive cladding treatment had been employed with large areas of glazing driving the architectural expression. In comparison, Hilton House would have been a relatively low value building at the time, restricting capital costs. As a result, a bulky perimeter heating system occupied the space below the windows, creating high spandrel panels and, by Seifert’s standards, heavy proportions.
To fulfil the Seifert’s original design intent, a full height window system has been introduced. This change has transformed the building’s exterior giving it the well-proportioned simplicity it had originally lacked, while bringing more natural light deep into the repurposed floorplates. The generous use of glazing also exposes the building’s spiral staircase from the exterior, making it recognisable from along Hilton Street.
On ground floor level, the space had been adapted to meet the requirements of various occupiers over the years. At the time of redevelopment, much of the ground exterior had been clad with poor-quality wood panelling. Full height glazing has been introduced across along the Hilton Street elevation. This creates a frontage that supports use of the space as a bar or restaurant, allowing the building to become part of the area’s vibrant leisure economy.
AJ Retrofit Awards 2020: Shortlisted for the 2,000-10,000m² Workplace Award
Gavin Stewart ©
Gavin is managing director at Buttress with experience in various sectors across the practice, with a specific focus on commercial projects.
Liam is a CIAT chartered architectural technologist who supports the delivery of residential projects, including both apartment buildings and housing developments.