The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester is located within some of the world’s most important surviving buildings and structures from the Industrial Revolution era. As part of a site-wide masterplan of these buildings, a new Special Exhibitions Gallery has been designed within one of the historic warehouses, the New Warehouse, originally built in 1882. The new gallery is located on the lower ground floor within the New Warehouse, Part of the ambition of the masterplan is to create stronger site-wide orientation and access between buildings and spaces which are dislocated by the network of Victorian railway viaducts. The Special Exhibition Gallery project creates a new visitor route which links the Lower Yard with the busiest levels of the museum above.
The new entrance at Lower Yard rehabilitates the vaulted under-croft of the one of the railway viaducts which for several decades has been a dark, damp and unattractive space for visitors. Full-height fibre-glass panelled walls transform the visitor welcome from outside to inside, alleviating the oppressive atmosphere of the heavy Victorian structures overhead. Each new fibre-glass panel has been hand-cast and tinted with a terracotta- hue to complement the surrounding weathered Victorian brickwork. The panels are subtly back-lit, revealing the maker’s marks in their surface and gently illuminate the spatial and decorative qualities of the historic cast-iron and brick jack- arch structures.
The generous ramped entrance improves collections management from the Lower Yard and leads to the foyer and a large open-plan events space which in turn connects directly to the Special Exhibitions Gallery. This new gallery exploits the size and character of the vast warehouse basement with its composite cast-iron
and brick structure and 6m-high vaulted ceilings which follow the profile of historic railway lines and platforms above.