Air Concept 2, Enterprise City, P.Allied London
Air Concept could be built on the last remaining development plot at Enterprise City. Credit: Allied London

Ingall proposes ‘provocative’ Manchester office concept

Dan Whelan

Allied London has developed early-stage proposals for Air Concept, an innovative 300,000 sq ft workspace at Enterprise City in Manchester designed to boost collaboration and sustainability.

While Allied’s chief executive Mike Ingall was at pains to stress that the project is just a concept at this stage, he did not rule out delivering the tower in the future.

For now, he hopes the thinking behind it can spark innovation in the office sector. 

“It’s not mad, it’s there to try and inspire. And it’s there to be a bit provocative,” Ingall told Place North West. 

The idea behind Air Concept, which came to Ingall while on a family holiday in Cape Town, comes in response to market changes in the wake of Covid-19.

He recognises the workplace of the future needs to change and wants to be ahead of the curve at Enterprise City. 

The cylindrical form of the scheme, which architect Chapman Taylor and engineer Ridge are helping to design, aims to make better use of the flow of air throughout the building for heating and cooling, improving sustainability credentials.

Air Concept could reach 50 storeys, although Ingall said the office space will stop at the 25-storey mark.

The circular floorplates are designed to facilitate better collaboration, with Ingall citing round boardroom tables as the inspiration behind the idea. 

“We only mainly have round meeting tables, so if you blow that up on a big scale, you’re working on a big, round floor plan. There is something really inclusive about that.” 

In order to deliver the desired floorplates, the tower’s three cores would be located on the outside of the building, freeing up the centre of the structure for more usable space, Ingall explains. 

“I asked myself, ‘how do I make a floorplate that’s inclusive that is not cluttered with crap?'”.

Air Concept, Enterprise City, P.Allied London

Allied is working with Chapman Taylor and Ridge on the scheme. Credit: Allied London

A ramp would spiral upwards, hugging the inside of the building. The ramp feature is also rooted in collaboration, allowing easy access between floors and thus a healthy, unobstructed flow of ideas. 

It is this sort of innovative thinking that could be the key to luring people back to the office, according to Ingall.

“If we want people back in the office and the city, they are going to ask ‘what is in it for me?’. You’ve got to think through that in whatever product you’re now designing.”  

The building would not be much more expensive to construct than a traditional office, Ingall claims. And in any case, concept or not, he is already casting his eye beyond upfront cost towards potential returns.

“The cost is the cost. In order to succeed you basically have to create more value, added value. And in our industry, you create more value by providing a product that you can sell for more.” 

Aside from the value of the building itself, it is important to consider the impact schemes can have on the wider Manchester economy, Ingall said.

The Air Concept site, nestled between the Globe Building and Manchester Goods Yard off Water Street, was previously planned to house a 54-storey residential tower. Allied had even sold a number of the apartments off-plan before Ingall had a change of heart. 

“We shelved that tower because we didn’t think it gave us any social benefit, nor did it really give us wider economic benefit. It only gave us the economic benefit of a property.” 

As well as the lack of social benefit, there was a more practical reason behind the shift from residential to workspace. 

“We interviewed 10 contractors [for the job] and I wasn’t satisfied any one of them could build a 54-storey residential tower in this city,” he said. 

After the residential tower was shelved, Northlight, a 23-storey office scheme, was then proposed to take its place. 

Now Air Concept has been mooted for the same site and Northlight has been removed from the Enterprise City website, although Ingall insists the project has merely been placed on the back burner.

“We may go back to Northlight. It’s a good building and it’s well designed but does it have the value that I can really create?”

So what of Air Concept? Is Ingall confident it will get built? 

“I don’t know. I reckon I might be 80,” he joked. 

The project may just be a concept at this stage, but Allied London has previous for veering away from the norm when one of its schemes is entering the home straight.

At Spinningfields, the final building developed was the timber-framed structure now occupied by The Ivy. 

Another 12-storey office could have easily been built on the site, Ingall said. However, as Spinningfields neared completion, he wanted to deliver something different within the steel and glass jungle. 

Air Concept is the equivalent of that building, according to Ingall

“This is the last developable plot within St John’s where we can do something ‘wow’.” 

Manchester Goods Yard, Allied London, P.planning Docs

Cloud Imperium has signed for 87,000 sq ft at Manchester Goods Yard. Credit: via planning documents

Allied London’s Enterprise City is a burgeoning hub for tech, media and creative companies. Cloud Imperium, a video game developer, recently signed for 87,000 sq ft at Manchester Goods Yard after Allied actively approached the firm. 

Air Concept, if it does ever become reality, would add to the “diverse inventory” Ingall is trying to create for Manchester’s growing cohort of new industrialists.

“I believe that there are a lot of clever people who are doing a lot of clever things. They no longer have to go to the Valley or to New York or to London. Therefore our job, as it’s always been, is to provide relevant appropriate infrastructure.”

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here

I won’t put any bets on that ever happening. The original proposal was lovely.

By Steve

I like this – would really like to see it get built.

By Manc Man

Is it viable with all that wasted space

By TJL

It’s rare to see something so unique. It ticks a lot of boxes.Id like to see it built.

By Robert Fuller

Looks brilliant and would suit Manchester

By Anonymous

Really nice design, excellent thought behind it and typical of the man behind AL. Very impressed and hope to see it get built. It would be very iconic for Manchester,. especially if it breaches 50 stories, not to mention it would be c50% office, almost unprecedented in the UK beyond the M25.

Go Manchester and the NW!

By The Squirrel's Nuts

Why not introduce the floating floor plates that rise higher within the frame like the old gas storage cylinder. That would be flexible office space.

By Cylinder of joy

Mike – just do it! Looks great.

By Dover

GET IT BUILT!

By GET IT BUILT!

Very impressive picture. Want to believe it but know it won’t happen. Construction cost won’t get funded. Everything is made in straight lines – curved means expense, lots of it. Increased inclusivity and connection is achieved through interior design, company culture and technology, not circular shaped floors & external staircases. Would do well to look at what Bruntwood are delivering in Bloc and 111 Piccadilly – up-cycling rectangular 1970’s buildings – that’s impressive sustainability! But the picture and so called concept worked in grabbing headlines today, chip paper tomorrow, like the design. Let’s see what really gets built. Interesting that plenty of tall resi towers are going up successfully all around the city.

By Sonic

Never going to happen. The original Trinity Islands scheme anyone? Certain entities like to dream big and deliver false promises.

By Big Dubber

Following the somewhat lacklustre designs of Trinity Islands… the st john’s area needs something to set it apart. This seems like a step in the right direction

By Motley

Lets hope it gets built, but irrespective they are always pushing the envelope and credit to them and Mike for doing it. Moreover, they always put their own hand in their pocket and dont wait for the public sector to subsidise or underwrite the risk unlike some of the other flavour of the month developers.

By BDAY

I think Manchester is so desperate for this kind of structure, it lacks landmarks. All the recent developments are so painfully dull, I like this concept i think it would bring some character to the city.

By Michael

I like the ‘oversized water tower’ kind of design, but hope those service shafts do not end up opaque. Need to be clear glass, as it would be fun to see people go up and down in the lifts :-)
It also needs some kick ass illumination at night too, to make it really iconic.

By Steve