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Jun 23 2017

Heritage Building Conversion


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When looking at heritage buildings there are often a lot of different dialogues about how they should be preserved. Sometimes conversion is the best thing to give somewhere a new lease of life but often different agencies have varying ideas on what makes something have value. A heritage preserver for example will label all the specific features that they deem of historical worth as giving character to the building and an integral part of communicating the historical past. They are therefore more likely to give more weight to preservation of historical features and maintenance of the building than repurposing for modern utility, whereas an architect will look at the functionality of the space as the most important thing with the historical aspects of the building either considered as a hindrance to the full potential use of the space or as a nice to have feature but not an essential part of the design.

In Manchester there are multiple examples of converted historical buildings, some with more consideration of the building's historical past than others. To name a few:

                  - Manchester Eye Hospital on Oxford Road is now let to CityLabs
                  With its preserved façade the old Eye Hospital hides a new glass dominated modern office and lab space to its rear, complete with a Starbucks.

                  - Corn Exchange
                  The outside of the building remains the same but the inside has been gutted to create an open space with a variety of restaurants and eateries

Bruntwood, the developer responsible for the Manchester Eye Hospital, has set its sights on a new project, namely Abney Hall in Cheadle Village.

Abney Hall was originally built in 1847 by a cotton magnate and boasts a couple of famous guests including Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert and her son Edward VII. Moreover the hall was redesigned in parts by August Pugin who co-designed the Palace of Westminster.

Keeping the significant history and architectural prowess the Grade II listed building has in mind, the redesign to office space is certainly interesting. The modern spaces vary in size and shape, maintaining some of the historical features and the outside is a treat with little to no alterations.

Taking into account the historical prestige of the site, it would be interesting to see what the various opinions on the building would be. Moreover, what’s your opinion? Do you like that the building has a new purpose to fit in with modern demands whilst also trying to maintain some of its historical significance, or do you think the design has failed to walk the tightrope between functional design and historical preservation?

Have a look at their brochure here.

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