Brickwork progresses to a higher level

3 03 2014

Brickwork progresses to a higher level

Having climbed up onto the scaffolding today and being close to the ascending brickwork on our Landscape Gallery, I’ve decided that in my next life, (should I choose to be part of the construction industry) – I’d be a ‘brickie’ – especially if I was able to work on such delightful designs as those conceived by our architects, MUMA. If you go back to one of my previous blog posts from last September,, you will see the sample panels being developed and the special faience pieces that will give the designs facing onto Denmark Road their distinctive ‘slash and stitch’ effect, based on textiles from the Whitworth’s collection.

Work on laying the bricks to the external Gallery walls is now well under way, albeit somewhat hidden from general view by the scaffolding, but its safe to say, the connection between the red brick and terracotta facade of our original building is apparent. The new bricks, commissioned as the ‘Whitworth blend’, have been supplied by Northcot brick, a Gloucestershire based master brickmakers, who have many years experience of producing machine-made bricks of high quality and consistency. There are also special traditional hand-made bricks, with a subtle shape and character of their own, such as those surrounding the plantroom ventilation at the far end of the Landscape Gallery (see photograph below).


Of course, when I’m a brickie, I will only want to be working when the sun is shining! Maybe that’s too much to ask, given our recent Manchester weather, but certainly seeing work progressing on the ‘pleated’ pattern on the curved, south facing wall of the Learning Studio, was a pleasure to witness – not just because it was a glorious sunny day, but as a demonstration of the beautiful detailing and finish of our emerging new building.

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A precision building taking shape

20 02 2014

A precision building taking shape 2

Last week, we were pleased to welcome Jane Arthur, one of our HLF monitors to see how the new building is progressing. Jane is a freelance consultant for the museums, heritage and cultural sector and has been working with us on the project since we secured our HLF funding. She is particularly interested in an audience focused approach combined with an informed understanding of museum collection needs, and so has been assisting us in looking at how our Conservation Management Plan and Activity Plan work together.

This was Jane’s first visit on site – “It was fascinating to see the structures I was so familiar with from plans and elevations taking physical shape on site. I was struck by the contrast between changes in working practice describing the way the original building was constructed to current practice. The emphasis on precision and exact positioning, including modelling features in polysterene, practice brickwork and samples. In both old and new though there was care given to the selection and use of materials.


But what really caught my attention were the colours – everything (apart from our bright high viz jackets) was in muted earth tones – from the gloopy mud to the brickwork. With this restricted palette I ended up looking closely at the subtle variations different tones of bricks make across a wall and the small patterns in the flooring slabs set off by the white of gallery walls. Looking out of the windows of what will be the restaurant in the trees I was amazed at how close the trees were to the building. With the glass in place the inside/outside feel was perfect, even on a very windy and grey afternoon. There are definitely landscapes in the building before the art goes in!”



Our final photographs show Jane, with Bob from ISG and other Whitworth staff surrounded by scaffolding in the exhibition galleries, and then high up amongst the beams of the roof – Jane commented: “I always like going to parts of a site that will be inaccessible when the building is complete. Climbing up to the top of the original gallery to see the original structure we were accompanied by a gentle fall of ‘polysterene snow’ from the roof insulation.”

Latest bird’s eye view of the construction site

13 02 2014

Latest bird's eye view of the construction site

Earlier this week I managed to dodge the rain and get back up on the roof of the nearby student Halls of Residence on Denmark Road to take this latest bird’s eye view of the construction site. On first glance it might not seem as if much has changed since the last view in mid November (see:, but on closer inspection you can see progress on the installation of window frames and glazing, in particular the large window in the Landscape Gallery facing the park, and also at the far end of the Cafe. Brickwork is also moving on and slowly creeping up the walls of the Landscape Gallery, and the huge high level window looking northwards that will bring a diffused light into the Landscape Gallery is now being fitted out within the steel structure – a move that will finally make this area watertight.


Elsewhere within the internal spaces, more work is ongoing to plaster walls, fit-out services, and lay screeds and stone paving. Preparations are being made to make the openings from the Exhibition Galleries and South Promenade through to the existing Gallery, and work has started on the installation of the 53 person goods lift.

Just some great images!

3 02 2014

Just some great photos!

Not much for me to report right now – progress continues on site, but its been quite difficult to get around, not just because of the rain, but as so many areas are currently having floor screeds or stone paving laid, so access routes are restricted.

So instead I’m going to show a few images that are ‘during’ shots – phases of the building work that once completed will never look like this again, or may never even be visible to anyone:

First up (above), perfect circles cut into the brickwork and precisely aligned between the arches of the Lower Promenade, that will become part of the ventilation system. Secondly (below), the steel structure, seen from the inside, that forms the huge high level window from the Landscape Gallery looking out over Denmark Road.


And finally, a view of the South Promenade wall – the wall that used to be the exterior of the Gallery, but is now internal – with work ongoing to remove poor and damaged bricks ready for replacement with reclaimed bricks, and finally cleaning and repointing. The area of white wall at the far end used to be within a small outbuilding, demolished at the start of the project – this is where a new door will be opened up between the Promenade and the existing South Gallery.