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1 Hardman Street, Manchester, UK

Issue 82 December / January 2014 : Architectural : Commercial

Lighting Design: Light Bureau

No.1 Hardman Street is located at the heart of Spinningfields in Manchester City Centre. This recently completed new building provides five floors of office space and is a piece of contemporary architecture that sits comfortably alongside both its historic neighbours and the large glazed buildings of this commercial district of the city.

Levitt Bernstein’s design was the winner of a competition organised by Allied London in 2009 to design a scheme for one of the few remaining plots in the Spinningfields development, which is closely bounded by numerous other buildings.

The winning scheme was initially designed as a restaurant and art gallery space. Over the subsequent years the increased need for high quality office space and the design of the building was adapted, increasing the floor area to create offices with an internal aesthetic to cater for future users.

Being one of the smaller buildings of the Spinningfields redevelopment, the design seeks to maximise its visual impact and optimise the potential of the site. The new building is sensitive to its location within a conservation area while expressing a contemporary and individual character, providing a visual juxtaposition between the surrounding historic and contemporary developments.

The distinctive external materials are a key design feature of the new building providing a strong visual identity. The main building envelope consists of a checkerboard layout of black cladding panels and large windows. At ground floor and around the parapet of the building, the insulated panels have been finished with a high quality textured (Rimex) metal finish, which subtly changes with varying light conditions. In bright sunlight, the upper reaches of the building seem to mirror the blue skies above, while in darker conditions, the appearance is similar to that of the simple black panel beneath, which can be seen to the rear elevation.

This screen provides a contrasting veil to the front and part side elevations of the building. Light Bureau has designed lighting to illuminate the building, ensuring the building has an identity of its own both day and night.

Although Levitt Bernstein approached Lighting Bureau with a view to designing a façade lighting scheme in 2008, it took until December 2013, just a few months to completion, before an appointment was agreed with the client. It’s fair to say that technology has moved on a long way in the intervening five years so it was probably a good thing that not too much time was spent on an early solution. As it was already late in the build, any change to the architecture was going to have to be limited.

The architecture is unapologetically contemporary and the scale of the building is quite small in comparison to neighbouring structures, which enclose and look on to it. On this basis, it was felt that the lighting response should be playful and enhance the permeable building screen. Light Bureau investigated options but, as often happens, the first intuitive response was the one it adopted. The circular perforations in an otherwise simple rectilinear box are what defines the building and so they sought to express those. The holes would be visible from all directions and Light Bureau felt that the depth of the façade panels would be enough to capture highlights lit strongly from an acute angle. The base of the façade screen was a natural point at which to locate the light sources and the internal face allowed uninterrupted grazing to the whole height.

Mediacom has a strong colour associated with its identity and whilst the lighting can achieve millions of alternatives, the design team felt that the general effect was already enough and that the colour stay within Mediacom’s palette, thereby reinforcing their identity. The project is in fact a very simple treatment but is all the more effective for a clear concept.

The budget for the project was extremely limited and so Light Bureau’s fee, and therefore involvement, had to be proportional to the available funds. Paul Traynor, Principal of Light Bureau, commented, “There’s no joy in designing an amazing scheme but then the actual realisation of the project is curtailed because you’ve used too much of the budget on the design. We were keen to ensure that as much of the money as possible was available for the supply and installation.”

This meant that Light Bureau needed to find a manufacturer they could trust to take their developed strategy to a finished project. They felt that Lumenpulse offered the right product and importantly, that Lumenpulse would support the construction team through implementation and commissioning. They chose well and all parties were impressed by the attention that Lumnepulse offered throughout. Traynor concluded, “So many projects are let down by lackadaisical or inadequate attention to detail and service. We think the client got best value for his budget and the tenant has a scheme that underlines their brand values.”


1 Hardman Street
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