Manchester Metropolitan University School of Art & Design
Manchester School of Art

The Benzie Building extension to the Manchester School of Art, provides an engaging and lively environment for students and staff to work and study and has helped re-assert both the Art School and the University’s profile on the national stage.

This major extension comprises of two key elements. The first is the Design Shed, the working heart of the building with energetic open studios, creative workshops and interactive teaching spaces. This hybrid environment is designed to encourage students to work alongside each other and enjoy the crossover of creative subjects happening all around.

The second is a highly visible vertical gallery linking to the existing 1960s Chatham tower and promoting the School of Art to the University and the wider city. With its vast glazed façade, the building is an open gallery, proudly showcasing its students’ work to all who pass by: a ‘Window on the Arts’.

The building celebrates the commonalities of art and design specialisms, breaking down traditional hierarchies to foster inspired collaboration between disciplines instead.

Key Information

Sector: Mixed Use, Interior Design, Higher Education, Arts & Culture

Client: Manchester Metropolitan University

Location: Manchester

Completion: April 2013

Size: 17,320 sqm GEA

Manchester School of Art external view

It is a building that is proud of its product and shows the work to everyone... it's a hugely exciting arena where anything is possible and everything is relevant.

David Crow, former Dean of Manchester School of Art


Manchester School of Art is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the UK, with one of its most famous students being artist LS Lowry. The school was established in the 19th Century to help keep the region competitive in an international market and support regional industry. In the design we wanted to express a modern interpretation of the traditional warehouse typology which made Manchester such a success through its textile trade.

The most significant area of change to the existing Chatham tower was the exterior cladding of the building which we felt should unify the two structures visually and provide similar levels of comfort for the occupants as they move between the old and the new. Horizontal alternating bands of glazing and black anodised aluminium rain screen are overlapped, concealing high level operable vents. Despite the near 40% reduction in glazed area from the original design - to improve environmental performance - building users comment on bigger panoramic views due to the arrangement of windows.

The primary material of the new building is the exposed in-situ concrete frame. Different areas have received different treatments, and these include a series of decorative columns within the key interior spaces that have a surface relief pattern derived from a 100-year-old wallpaper design by a former MSA tutor Lewis Day.


Throughout the project, it was a priority to recruit and up-skill residents living in the Manchester corridor gateway. FCBS worked closely with the Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s construction business support & training team Construction Industry Solutions as well as employment support team Work Solutions who help unemployed Central Manchester residents get back into work.

These collaborations meant seven long term unemployed local residents were employed to work in a variety of positions. Throughout the project five people employed on site included: Gateperson / Traffic Marshall, Cleaner, General Operative and two Hoist Operators. Our supply chain managed to create several additional vacancies including Chainperson, Labourer and Assistant Site Engineer.

The principles of inclusive design were kept in clear focus throughout the project which aspires to bridge the gap between education and professional life. 

MSA New extension external shot


Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Morgan Sindall
Structural Engineer
M&E Engineer
Cost Consultant
Turner & Townsend
Facade Consultant
Montresor Partnership
Landscape Architect
Dan Pearson Studio
Project Manager
Turner & Townsend

FCBStudios Team Leads


Schueco Excellence Award: Education
RIBA National Award
RIBA Stirling Prize: Shortlisted
Education Estates Award: HE project of the Year
Concrete Society Award: Best Education Building