Best of the North West | The Hive, Manchester

David PorterThe Hive was a game-changer on so many levels, writes David Porter of Knight Frank. 

It was the first new office building in the Northern Quarter in decades and represented truly pioneering regeneration. Remember the city was a totally different landscape 10 years ago and there were many who questioned why you would want to put an office there at all.

Secondly, it was a joint venture between the developer Argent and Manchester City Council. Another bold move, led by Sir Howard, supporting a belief that Manchester had to grow and it could grow to offer something different. The office was delivered through the recession, giving best value and sending a strong message that Manchester was still open for business.

Thirdly, it set a completely new direction in office design. Pared-back, low cost, with exposed services and raw concrete surface treatments. It was built before the term ‘White Collar Factory’ had even been conceived and was way ahead of its time. It was designed by architect Jon Matthews while at 5plus, at a time when the office market in Manchester was false ceilings and grey carpet tiles, and has been copied many times over since.

It was way ahead on sustainability too. Naturally ventilated, it did away with the need for air conditioning and the concrete body of the building self-regulates heat. A solar shading screen down the entire length of Lever Street was the result of a national design competition and its as much a piece of street art as technical innovation. It is rated BREEAM excellent and quite rightly picked up a British Council of Offices regional award in 2011.

At 80,000 sq ft it’s a chunky size overall but the decision was taken to offer smaller flexible spaces, from 2,500 sq ft aimed at start-ups and given the location and the fact there was nothing else like it available in the city these attracted and fostered creative industries. The Arts Council found its natural home at The Hive.

Wellbeing was part of the design process before it was even a thing with a low maintenance sedum roof garden up top and bike storage and showers in the basement.

It reintroduced Bradley Street, giving the opportunity for more front doors onto the street for shops and restaurants allowing new outlets like Pie & Ale to service the office workers above. It offered the city’s first co-working space in The Classroom and there are separate entrances and door numbers onto Lever Street, rather than one imposing office entrance. It fits the location. No gloss – all grain.

The Hive was part of a bigger masterplan, it was built on the site of the old bus station which had moved to Shudehill and it acted as a catalyst for neighbouring regeneration around Stevenson Square.

Argent sold the building in 2015 to Kames Capital for £17m and is now estimated to be worth around £22m.

A retrospective of new buildings delivered over the last two decades is an interesting process, a good way to judge a city. The Hive is a symbol of what can be achieved under the patronage of developers like David Partridge, the strategic support of the City Council for innovation and development and the belief in pioneering design.

It also managed to incorporate Manchester’s worker ethic without a bee emblem in sight! The Hive – a brilliantly clever building.

As a new decade nears, throughout December Place North West will be publishing views from the property industry on the best buildings completed between 2000 and 2019, highlighting the design and development successes of the past 20 years.

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The only nice building in the Northern Quarter

By Dan

“Pared-back, low cost… It was built before the term ‘White Collar Factory’ … No gloss – all grain.”

My word! Its surprising what people will celebrate! Especially when it comes to poor quality development and especially in Manchester, sadly.

Fortunately, I happen to disagree with the above reading of the aesthetic – its an interesting and attractive design and finish.

By Oh Bee-hive