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Forming part of a wider transformation programme, the link provides our client with a connection between their two Grade II* listed buildings, Manchester Central Library and Town Hall Extension. The structure is defined by its relationship with the tapering, crescent shaped Library Walk pedestrian route, the neighbouring characterful, curving and contrasting façades of the neighbouring listed buildings, and the site’s wider context.

Despite the roof mass and lofty space, there is very little lasting impact to the fabric of the adjacent buildings. Developed in close consultation with conservation officers, the detailed design also minimises obstructions to views through the link and views of the historic fabric of the listed buildings adjacent.

The unexpected stainless steel monocoque roof volume provides a dynamic, abstract element that is rooted in its situation and invites closer inspection by reflecting the adjacent buildings, the groundscape and the people moving within and around the link. The roof tapers to a fine edge at the eaves to minimise its visual impact and deepens towards the centre to provide the necessary structural strength. The underside of the structure is formed as an undulating series of mirror polished curved surfaces which relate directly to, and provide a full view of, each of the adjacent arched openings into the listed buildings.

There is only one structure supporting the 30 Tonne roof load: 34mm thick, 7m high structural glass panels. The link’s curved glass walls are separated from each listed building by glass roofed, interstitial spaces which allow a continued flow of space through Library Walk and around the new structure. Low iron glass maximises transparency.

Careful servicing avoided inserting service routes which would detract from the structure’s lightweight, minimal nature. Mounted within a perimeter trench protected by a bronze floor grille, uplighters direct light inwards and upwards towards the soffit from where it is reflected and redistributed down to ground level. VESDA aspirating smoke detection using small diameter vertical stainless steel pipes avoids installing smoke detectors on the soffit.

Project information

  • Client

    Manchester City Council

  • Status


  • Area

    180 sq m

  • Start


  • Completion

    June 2015

  • Consultants

    Main Contractor: Laing O’Rourke
    Services Engineer: BDP
    Structural EngineerAKTII (concept)
    Eckersley O’Callaghan (detail)
    Specialist Subcontractor: Wagner Biro

  • Elements

    Steel monocoque roof volume
    30 Tonne roof load 34mm thick, 7m high structural glass
    Low iron glass WESDA aspirating smoke detection Mosaic flooring

  • Awards

    2016 RIBA Award

Core Team