GM Building of the Year shortlist: Victoria station

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

From a mixed shortlist that includes an office, a gallery, and a research centre, choosing the Building of the Year for 2015 is set to be a challenge for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. In the penultimate review of the series, Place North West looks at the recently completed Victoria station refurbishment.

Victoria is one of Manchester’s oldest rail terminals and a historic building in its own right, dating from 1844, with a number of listed features. However, up until Network Rail’s recent £44m investment, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that it was anything more than a side entrance to Manchester Arena, normally passed through at speed while dodging ticket touters.

You certainly can’t deny that the refurbishment is a vast improvement. From a dark and dingy station which offered a weary traveller the impression of having arrived in a disused warehouse, the project has delivered a sensitive restoration of many features that had been largely ignored for decades, as well as improving the station’s capacity with four new platforms and an additional track.

Prior to the investment, dominant historic highlights within the building included genuine Victorian smog stains. Now the station serves as a museum of Northern rail history, with a myriad of features cleaned up and brought to the fore such as the original Lancashire & Yorkshire railway tiled map, First World War memorial, Soldiers’ Gate, mosaics, Art Nouveau iron canopy and the former First Class lounge.

The station might risk being bogged down by the weight of history if it weren’t for contemporary additions such as the 90,000 sq ft arched roof replacing the old train sheds, made from the same material as Cornwall’s Eden Project and bringing a similar ‘bubble’ effect. The contrast between old and new brings out the best in both, and there’s plenty to catch the eye while waiting for a train or tram.

Most importantly, the change in first impressions has been dramatic. The station is billed as Manchester’s second largest mainline station after Piccadilly, and for the first time in many years Victoria feels suited to its role as one of the main gateways into an aspiring world-class city.

  • BDP was the architect for the station, with Morgan Sindall the contractor

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