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Urbis provides adaptable galleries with a vibrant mix of other uses. Our international competition winning design originally housed interactive city galleries, and now the building is home to the National Football Museum.

The building is a symbol of Manchester’s regeneration after the IRA's 1996 bombing. It repaired the existing streetscape, respects its historic context and creates Cathedral Gardens, a much needed city centre public space. By placing the building on the edge of the site, we maximised the area available for landscaped gardens and allowed greater opportunity to respect and enhance the listed and historic status of the building’s neighbours.

Rising six storeys, the dominant roof slopes and cants towards the city. An inclined elevator encourages visitors to the top to admire the cityscape and progress down a series of cascading mezzanine floors past unobstructed and flexible gallery spaces. Each floor is open to atria at their ends allowing visual connection to and from the ground level foyers, and providing an exciting and inviting visitor experience. The simple internal organisation differentiates between served and servant spaces with public circulation and movement overlooking Cathedral Gardens, and services and escape circulation located within the east buffer zone.

Outside, a sandblasted glass skin of varying transparency offers glimpses in and out of the building, through a textured and constantly changing surface made up of 2500 glass panels. Its soft natural green hue is complemented by the raking patinated-copper roof. An angular glazed lantern cuts a swathe through the roof, forming an emphatic spine to the building which terminates with a delicate copper finial. The cavity between the external and internal façade leaves dramatically improves energy efficiency by moderating solar gain and heat loss through a combination of triple glazing, louvres and blinds.

Project information

  • Client

    Manchester City Council

  • Status


  • Area

    8,000 sq m

  • Start


  • Completion

    June 2002

  • Consultants

    Structural Engineer: Halcrow Waterman,
    Martin Stockley Associates
    Building Services Engineer: Farley Consulting Engineers
    Cost Manager: Davis Langdon Everest
    Project Manager: MPM Capita

  • Elements

    Public galleries
    Commercial office space
    Entrance and circulation
    Public service & teaching facilities
    Environmental control
    Staff/management support facilities

  • Awards

    2007 Manchester Tourism Award, Large Visitor Attraction of the Year
    2004 Civic Trust Award - Commendation
    2003 RIBA Award
    2003 Manchester Society of Architects (MSA) Design Award, Overall Winner & Sport and Leisure Winner
    2003 American Institute of Architects Design Excellence Awards - Commendation
    2002 Built In Quality Award

Core Team