THIS is interesting architectural news from our biggest orchestra. In a sensitive historical site they clearly want to deliver top quality work. 

What is heart-warming is the decision to go for an international competition. Variety of design expression is important.

'RIBA Competitions is pleased to announce the launch of an invited design competition on behalf of the Hallé Concerts Society. The competition is seeking to select a design team for a project to extend the Hallé St Peter’s Building in Ancoats, Manchester. The proposed, circa 1,450 square metre new-build extension will form the second phase of the project to transform the Grade II listed former church building into rehearsal, performance, education and ancillary spaces for the Hallé Orchestra, Choir and other ensembles. 

'The Hallé wants the Hallé St Peter’s extension to be a worthy addition to the industrial architectural heritage of the former cotton mill area of the city, which is characterised by its powerful red brick structures. The new extension will have an important role to play in the consolidation of the adjacent urban public space, the new Cutting Room Square. It will also need to provide an appropriate adjunct to the existing building’s ecclesiastical architecture, which by offering a refreshing rather than modish response, will embody the ethos of the Hallé as an organisation.'

John Summers, Hallé Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to be working with RIBA to find a design team to deliver an inspiring building in the heart of Manchester’s Ancoats.  The successful firm will demonstrate an innovative and practical approach, both to a fascinating, music focussed, brief and the unique urban context”. 

Confidential asked Patrick Langan, chair of the nearby residents association at Royal Mills for a comment and he said: "We welcome the consideration that any development must complement Cutting Room Square and further enhance its appeal as a active public space. Maintaining the original vision and ethos of the Ancoats Conservation Area is absolutely paramount and we therefore expect that Hallé St Peter’s Building will ensure the Square remains accessible.

"RoMRA (Royal Mills Residents Association) hope Manchester City Council take the same view and, in doing so, reject the current proposals for the adjacent development of Hood Street site which adversely impacts upon the social and physical environment of Cutting Room Square."

Langan is referring to the objections outlined in this Manchester Confidential story on the controversial Hood Street proposals. In otherwords the residents want a coherent plan to transform the area that is quality throughout, not just quality over the design of the St Peter's extension but consistent around the sweet and elegant Cutting Room Square, designed by the excellent Dan Dubowitz.

The extThe extension will be placed within the fenced area in front of the former church 

What is heart-warming is the decision to go for an international competition. Variety of design expression is important. It can seem the city council and developers in Manchester have over the past decade too frequently gone with our very talented pool of local architects when maybe a broader selection process might have delivered a more diverse architectural experience for new build in the city. Designs from fine international practices such as Rafael Viñoly Architects for the new Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre or with MUMA's award-winning work at the Whitworth Art Gallery add spice to the city's architectural offering.

On a more practical level here are the details if you think you might be able to provide the solution to the Hallé St Peter’s extension project:

 'Expressions of Interest are sought from innovative, architect-led design teams. An equal honorarium of £6,000 (+VAT) will be paid to each of the teams (up to five) short-listed to participate in the design concept phase of the competition. Honorarium payments will be made to the architect firm leading each team and will be paid following submission and presentation of design concepts at final interview.

Expressions of Interest should be submitted in accordance with the requirements set out in the Preliminary Briefing Paper and Memorandum of Information available here. Interested parties who intend to submit a request to participate must obtain a Unique Registration Number (URN) by completing the form available here.'