Manchester School of Art

A constant visual ‘flow’ seems to underpin Feilden Clegg Bradley’s School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University

Manchester School of Art
Manchester School of Art · Credit: Hufton+Crow

Manchester School of Art
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios for Manchester Metropolitan University
Contract £23.6m. GIA 17,320m2

For a venerable institution promoting the principles of free thought within a vocational fine arts education, it’s quite apt that the entrance area of the Manchester School of Art’s extension soars up the full height of its new building. Populated with Piranesian staircases to move students between its open studios, workshops and teaching spaces, the concept of a building in constant visual ‘flow’ seems to underpin Feilden Clegg Bradley’s design. With a tight budget, details are all the more valuable here. Staircases are exposed steel and chunky timber, the odd concrete column is etched with detailed patterning, and at ground level, fire doors separate workshops from the ‘living room’ space so that each can be opened out fully to the other, connecting spaces even more and creating further internal drama. 

But it’s not all big moves and opening out. At the top of the building are smaller studios where students can peel away from the hubbub, and the lecture theatre, embodying the notion of more concentrated thought. Acknowledging its spatial complexity the RIBA Journal’s Eleanor Young said: ‘You are not meant to understand this building, you are meant to experience it,’ and it seems the RIBA judges agreed.