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Project Details - Manchester University Students Union

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Project Spotlight: Manchester University Student Union

Specified by: Wilson Mason

Project Overview

Growing from 4,000 students in the 1950s to approx. 400,000 currently, Manchester University has invested in an ambitious ‘Future Union’ as part of £1 billion campus improvement programme. As a hub for growing student population, the students’ union has always been more than the traditional bar and social scene, containing multiple entertainment venues and student services too.

The Future Union project aims to deliver more performance and rehearsal spaces, including a purpose built theatre, along with more meeting rooms and flexible meeting spaces to accommodate the University’s 450+ groups and societies. There will also be more designated student areas, a wider range of catering outlets, additional storage space and upgrades to all toilet facilities.

Design Requirements

Due to the prominent location of the building in close proximity to University’s Grade II listed Old Quadrangle and Whitworth Art Gallery buildings on Oxford Road and its cultural importance, the plans for the student union had to meet with strict planning considerations.

Shackerley provided samples of the SureClad® ceramic granite panels to help the architect overcome planning queries and secure consent. These large-scale samples were temporarily fixed to the existing building’s external brickwork to clearly demonstrate the aesthetics and quality of the proposed system in situ.

Shackerley prefabricated SureClad® panels and reveals at the company’s production facility in Lancashire, supplying the installation-ready panels to site with fixing straps securely anchored to their rear for installation using Shackerley’s Queen’s Award winning SureClad® Access System.

Explains Adrian Cowell from the project’s cladding installer, Task Contract Services Ltd: “The SureClad® Access System enables non-sequential installation of the façade panels, which was particularly useful on this project as we had to plan the cladding works around the main contractor’s complex schedule.  The flexibility offered by the Shackerley system meant that our team could return to complete areas and simply pick up where they had left off.”

Materials Used

The front of the building was upgraded and retained its commanding presence and distinctive Portland Stone aesthetic, with new windows and cleaning of the façade. The project includes two extensions constructed as infills to the rear courtyards. To ensure that these façades complement the original building’s Portland Stone frontage and answer demands of a core university facility in such a key location, Shackerley’s SureClad® ceramic granite ventilated cladding system was specified in a creamy beige colourway with a natural, stone-like finish. The design concept was to create a contemporary representation of the existing building, simplifying the existing elevations with a limited palette of materials that respect the materiality of the legacy building.

Explains the project architect at Wilson Mason: “The wide choice of colourways and finishes offered by Shackerley meant we were able to specify a Portland stone colour with a natural finish that ensures a strong visual connection between the new elevations and the original building frontage.”

In addition to the Portland stone-coloured SureClad® ceramic granite panels used to create the façades for the student union’s new elevations, the system was also specified for the capping details of the steps leading to the new entrance constructed as part of the new extension.

Here, the SureClad® system was specified in a dark grey/black colourway to create a contrast with the creamy coloured façade and hard landscaping. Shackerley prefabricated the bespoke details required for the steps at its Lancashire production plant and delivered them to site for installation.