Delivered through a modern method of construction, Manchester city centre’s new terracotta building echoes the region’s industrial heritage

Designed by Glenn Howells Architects, 125 Deansgate comprises 128,000 sq ft of workspace and retail in the heart of Manchester’s city centre.

An addition to being located on one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares, with its history of red masonry buildings, 125 Deansgate is situated opposite the Grade I-listed John Rylands Library.

In-keeping with the street’s historic context, the building is wrapped in a red skin of bespoke terracotta, echoing the region’s industrial heritage.

The terracotta facade was built using a prefabricated unitised system. The finished product was the outcome of a design process which explored the technical parameters of the material and construction process, supported and developed with Manchester city council and Historic England to ensure intricate details were retained.

This approach delivered the required precision and build quality from the terracotta, as well as speed and safety on site. The performance and specification of the modular system chosen, coupled with solar glass, enabled the glazing - and natural light - to illuminate the floors whilst keeping heating and cooling costs down.

Each building aspect is designed to work uniquely in relation to the sun, alongside the interlocking fenestrations to passively incorporate shading and efficiency, and contribute to a BREEAM Excellent rating. The prefabricated assembly also helped to deliver within a restricted city centre site.

125 Deansgate was fully let to ‘Spaces’, a national co-working provider and the commercial success of the project demonstrates the flexibility of the space.

Dav Bansal, partner at Glenn Howells Architects said: “The challenge of this project lies in the pivotal site location. This required a building of outstanding architecture, whilst the context called for exceptional materiality and detailing from the macro to the micro-scale.

“The resulting facade design, with the deep, scalloped and fluted red terracotta piers and spandrels come together to create a crafted facade. The design has strong vertical proportions, conveying a sense of robustness and strength which is evident on many of the historic buildings in Deansgate.

“The fabric first approach creates an environmentally responsive facade, with a varied intensity of piers dependant on the orientation, with the southern elevation having more primary piers than the east and west elevations, finely balanced to manage daylight and solar gains.”

Project details

Architect Glenn Howells Architects
Executive architect Leach Rhodes Walker (excluding facade)
Client (original client) Worthington Properties
Structural engineer Fairhurst
M&E consultant Hoare Lea
QS Deansgate Contractors (previously Marcus Worthington & Co. Ltd)
Project manager Deansgate Contractors
Main contractor Deansgate Contractors
CAD software Vectorworks
Terracotta profiles NBK Keramik GmBH (Germany)
Curtain wall fabricators Rinaldi Structal (France)