Excelsior Works Building, Castlefield Conservation Area Property, New Hulme Hall Road Flats Photos

Excelsior Works, Castlefield Conservation Area, Manchester

27 November 2021

Location: Hulme Hall Road, Castlefield Conservation Area, Manchester, Northwest England, UK

One of the 2021 Brick Award winners

Large Housing Development

Bricks: Michelmersh

Architect: Tim Groom Architects

Excelsior Works by Tim Groom Architects
photos courtesy of Brick Awards / architects

Excelsior Works Manchester

The client’s brief was to design a residential scheme with a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments for individual private sale. Occupying the site of a former bookbinding works and sitting on the periphery of the Castlefield Conservation Area, the Client was keen for the scheme to pay tribute to both the site, and City’s industrial past. Withstanding the challenging constraints of the site, the Client wanted us to augment views for residents and provide a scheme perceived as the vanguard of the area’s new masterplan. The construction programme commenced May 2018 and completed February 2020.

The building occupies a pronounced location on the corner of Hulme Hall Road and converges upon a change in topography along the Bridgewater Canal. Our aim was to design a building that celebrates the area’s history and utilises the Site’s views along the canal. By virtue of its location and its position amongst rhythmic façades of neighbouring buildings, the Scheme perceives its historic heritage through its form and detailing of the façade.

Excelsior Works by Tim Groom Architects

The Site’s relationship at canal towpath level was previously underutilised and other built schemes along this stretch had turned their backs on the canal. The Local Planning Authority wanted to reverse this scenario and “readdress the canal”. This steep stretch of canal was previously unavailable to wheelchair users. Consequently, the scheme now has the unique advantage of being able to be accessed from two separate levels – via the canal towpath and by the main road.

There were numerous site constraints, including listed buildings, listed party walls, canal inlet and towpath. The close proximity of adjoining properties and no building works access from most sides meant that fully scaffolding the elevations was impractical. This contributed to a very challenging programme and budget sought by the Client, meaning we were instrumental in the construction methodology discussions pre-novation.

Excelsior Works by Tim Groom Architects

The conclusion of this construction methodology was precast panels, with the majority of the building elevations being manufactured off-site. Masonry and windows were installed in-situ and panels were carefully designed to limit transport to site and ensure efficient tower crane usage.

To preserve the design approved at planning it was vital we upheld a refined palette of materials. The challenges were to incorporate a handmade, high-quality textured brick befitting to the context, that could be used as a mould, able to be cast in the precast concrete. Each brick was specifically hand thrown with the Maker’s initials stamped, drawing parallels to the site’s history as a printing and bookbinding works.

Excelsior Works by Tim Groom Architects

The materiality and detailing were subject to several large-scale sample panels which also included the precast manufacturer exploring a new sand sealant technology to avoid the appearance of thick movement joins engulfing the building. The precast allowed for several different levels of brick recesses, with the façade reflecting the order of a letterpress printing tray. The scheme proudly reconciles its heritage and the introduction of laser cut text on metal panels at both site entrances are a further reminder of this.

Dominic Comments

This is a sophisticated urban building.
It’s a fantastic site and the building responds subtly and successfully.
I particularly appreciated the care taken relating the building to the canal tow path. The fold in the facade works really well for me.
A calm contextual response – Manchester would benefit from more new ‘backround’ buildings like this.

Ths brick choice feels good and sits well with the neighbours – and I’m sure there would have been budget constraints.
I wondered whether the fenestration and architectural metalwork could have been bolder in tone or hue. A minor detail but the muted green has slightly rustic connotations for me.

It’s well detailed and well fabricated and well asembled.
The recessed pointing was pretty good – helped by a dark mortar colour.
The horizontal mastic joints between panels were sand faced and very neat which helped them to disappear despite the location which I’m sure was set by the manuacturers requirements.

Calm confident building – I’d be happy if this was one of my projects

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