Work starts on transforming the Grand Hall

17 03 2014

Work starts on transforming the Grand Hall

Construction work at the Gallery has very definitely moved from the rear of the building and there is now also considerable activity at the Oxford Road side too. Over the last few weeks, ISG have set up camp in the Gallery grounds to the east of the building and passers by will have seen a steady stream of contractors bringing material out of the building as demolition got underway on the Grand Hall.

The first job was to remove the 1970s suspended ceiling that hid the old air conditioning and wooden walkways – clearly visible in the photograph above. Once this has also been stripped away, the historic hammer beam roof and decorative arches, until now hidden from view, will be a beautiful feature of the Grand Hall.

The new Grand Hall will be a lovely space for Gallery events and functions

The new Grand Hall will be a lovely space for Gallery events and functions

Also now gone are the partition walls that for so long had divided up the space creating the two separate study rooms for fine art and textiles, and also small central curatorial offices – the scale of the room that will be used for a variety of functions and activities is truely magnificent (see details of our plans for the new Grand Hall in a blog post last November:

A forest of scaffolding poles heralds the next phase in the work on the Grand Hall

A forest of scaffolding poles heralds the next phase in the work on the Grand Hall

More recently scaffolding poles and planking have been taken inside and a forest of scaffolding is being built inside the Grand Hall to continue with the next phase of work, so watch this space as the development progresses. Due to the ISG move to the front of the building, there is now no public access to our grassy frontage or to the Park via the Gallery grounds. However, the daffodils are out in Whitworth Park – its a lovely place for a stroll or a lunchtime picnic, and still accessible from all the other park gates.


Fresh Made Trade are back in business

13 03 2014

Fresh Made Trade are back in business

Proof above of the glorious sunshine in Manchester this week, the photo shows Zak, a member of Fresh Made Trade, a group of ten enterprising 13-14 year old students from Manchester Academy, who have been in Whitworth Park this week, researching potential ideas with commercial appeal. Each year a group of young students from the Academy are tasked to produce stock for the Whitworth shop inspired by the Gallery’s collections and exhibitions. Now in it’s third year, they have been set the brief to design, make and sell products using clay which has been extracted from Whitworth Park by ISG builders, during the construction of the new Whitworth Art Gallery, (see previous blog post:

The students have been inspired by the sculptures, the new building and the plants and trees in the park, as well as the Gallery’s collections to create original designs, patterns and textures. Artist Lucy Burscough, who created Genesis Reborn from willow as part of the Whitworth Weekending Festival in August 2013 in collaboration with a group of volunteers, has been working with Fresh Made Trade. The sculpture, see image below, was inspired by Genesis by Sir Jacob Epstein and plays with concepts around the birth of a new Whitworth – The Gallery in the Park. The young people were very pleased to be working with the artist who had created this amazing work of art.

Fresh Made Trade students sketching Lucy Burscough's Genesis Reborn willow sculpture in Whitworth Park

Fresh Made Trade students sketching Lucy Burscough’s Genesis Reborn willow sculpture in Whitworth Park

For the rest of the week, the students have developed their ideas further whilst working at the Gallery of Costume in Platt Fields Park. They have explored a range of different techniques introduced by Lucy including carving into leather hard clay, pressing into soft clay with natural materials from the park and textiles inspired by the collection and making design stamps from a putty-based material called Milliput. Fresh Made Trade have designed a logo from clay to brand their products. This dynamic design team have worked tirelessly this week to design unusual, quirky clay products made from very sustainable and extremely locally sourced materials. There will be a limited run, so do make sure that you are one of the first to snap up one of their products made from raw material from the build. Products will be on sale in the Whitworth’s new and expanded shop in October 2014.

Cutting out the clay

Cutting out the clay

Manchester Academy students working together to roll out the clay

Manchester Academy students working together to roll out the clay

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.”