and a redundant service entrance,” was all ripped out. Now leading out onto Beaver Street, it includes a lounge, co-working space and coffee shop. Here, salvaged glazed brick was added to something retained from the 80s renovation – columns of masonry with steel cores, creating “a kind of atrium within an atrium.” A skylight was also revealed by removing ceiling tiles. “It was a deep floor plate because all three buildings were interconnected – so it was a nice way to bring light down, which there isn’t a huge amount of in Manchester,” says Grzywinski. The safety issues that needed addressing were chiefly around fire egress improvements. The previous 80s intervention had introduced fire stairs across the internal facades in Galbraith Street plus others into Beaver Street, and these had to be brought back inside the building to avoid disrupting the atrium’s newly clarified aesthetics. How the architects resolved this then fed into some of their decision-making on the internal circulation.

Trading heritage

“What we often see in boutique properties is that they’re lovely, but they’re not really liveable, not really comfortable,” says Matthew Grzywinski. He explains his motivation in this case to “walk the line” between something that was “aspirational, and certainly didn’t look like where people spend their daily lives,” and something which combined all the conveniences they’d expect, with a high level of comfort. Services have been exposed throughout the

hotel, matching the generally ‘stripped back’ aesthetic. Matthew says the idea was well received: “I proposed exposing them and the planners jumped on it.” This extended to the new adaptive kitchen services running from the Dominion building, which couldn’t come through the interior, as the structure would have been compromised. Instead they were run across the internal ‘Galbraith’ elevation, painted, and taken into the attic space. This approach was continued in the guest rooms, where services have been exposed, which Matthew admits was somewhat controversial. “There was tension between the contractor and the planners, who didn’t want to cover anything up. However they also didn’t care whether there was a functioning restaurant or cooling, so I had to bridge that gap and try and please everybody.” As a result the distinctive decor, which in guest rooms is in subtle yet warm ‘blush’

ADF MAY 2019

tones that covers not only brick walls and plaster ceilings but also ducting, cast iron columns and virtually everything attached to the walls, caused “a lot of raised eyebrows.” Matthew adds: “It wasn’t trying to fight the fact Manchester is a grey and red city, but that feeling that in a muscular building in a gritty city could be really special.” The soft feel is enhanced by colour-coordinated headboards made like the decks of canal boats.

While the internal colour choices, extending to the pistachio green of furniture and walls in the atrium, might initially seem to step away from the build- ing’s heritage, in fact they drew inspiration from Manchester’s historic global trade links. “Manchester exists because of international commerce, and the textile business in particular was pretty far flung,” Matthew says. He’s a fan of the colour of skies in rainy

cities, and has worked on several projects in such cities, from Seattle to Edinburgh. The architect applied this to Whitworth Locke in the form of palette of soft greys for metal elements in the atrium, and blues in the bathrooms, which work effectively with the warmer ‘equatorial’ colours elsewhere. The grey is also offset by a strong yellow in the atrium’s added steelwork (taken from the locally well-known symbol of Manchester, the Worker Bee), and botanical-themed textile murals in the atrium/bar, enhanced by hanging baskets, and behind the reception.

Feedback “You hear feedback from people who are staying there or working there, that there’s a level of ‘personality,’ says Grzywinski. The architect is delighted that this project, which has rescued important local heritage buildings for a new use, and opened up a formerly closed off street to the city, has received great reviews so far. Ironically, TripAdvisor is one problem to solve, given that its reviews are unfortunately conflating the new Whitworth Locke with its former dysfunctional identity. Matthew sees Manchester as having some similarities with New York in terms of its inherited properties from a bygone era, ripe for enhancement, but also a city with “so much soul, culture and personality, and a huge amount of creativity.” This new comfortable, yet colourfully elegant, hotel embodies those traits, and will likely be a big contributor to that culture. A product of sensitive architecture, it has also given venerable old buildings vibrant new life. 


The guest rooms are painted in warm ‘blush’ tones and bathrooms combine blues with ‘equatorial’ colours Images © Grzywinski + Pons



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