Completed in 1939, Owen Williams’ grade-II*-listed Daily Express Building is an icon of both Manchester and modern architecture. A recent refurbishment by Ben Adams Architects sought to undo alterations made in earlier renovation projects, and remedy damage arising from neglect, while “bringing a cool, contemporary co-working concept” to the city’s Northern Quarter.
Archive views of the Express Building
The architects’ approach was to “inject life and character back into the lower levels of the building”, peeling back the edge of the slab from the facade to bring in natural light and open up internal views at street level. New co-working areas, and a double-height reception with a 1930s-inspired cafe and lounge, are all visible from the street.
Large internal volumes have been created to recall the spatial qualities of the original hall that once housed the giant printing presses.
Wherever possible original materials have been retained and celebrated, including original quarry tiling in the primary stair, explains the architect. The distinctive blue colour used for interiors was found on traces of original 1930s paint in the building’s common areas, and used to disguises splashes and ink spills form the printing presses. Blackened metal is used throughout with touches of walnut and textiles for warmth.
The workplace fit-out was designed by OBI Property.
Throughout the building, dropped ceilings and internal partitions reveal the original concrete structure, with its textured concrete columns and cruciform column heads. “Meticulously laid out exposed services display the honest workings of the building and meet contemporary demands for environmental performance”, says the architect.
A new rooftop terrace wraps around the building, “offering panoramic views of the city, and contributing to the presence of a newly enhanced and highly identifiable building”.