Nicola Hewes B&w

NW in 2018 | In with the young

Here in the team working on the Manchester Town Hall project, 2018 is set to be a great year for inspiring young people to follow careers in the built environment, and while doing so connect with heritage architecture, writes Nicola Hewes of Purcell.

The higher level shared apprentice programme for the project, known as M Futures, will be in full flow next year. It aims to establish young people in the sector and encourage them to engage with their cultural heritage, through the active and vital participation in the refurbishment and futureproofing one of the UK’s most important historic properties. The programme involves apprentices undertaking placements across the range of firms in the project team, including Purcell.

Purcell will be asking apprentices to explore the Manchester Town Hall in full; to enjoy its quirks and features, learn to love and respect its heritage but also to bring fresh and modern ideas on how we might appropriately adapt the building, ensuring that it remains relevant and is preserved for current and future generations. Through their direct involvement in this unique project, the apprentices will have the opportunity to develop new skills and interests, and to connect with the wider community. Our aim is for them to become passionate and vocal advocates, promoting the importance of caring for our historic buildings for today and tomorrow.

The Town Hall complex is one of Manchester’s greatest cultural and civic assets, which makes a significant contribution not only to the heritage but also to the identity of the city. Manchester Town Hall and Albert Square are the most important of the buildings and public realm within the complex in terms of significance.

The Town Hall itself, which cost £1m to build and opened in 1877, is an internationally significant landmark. The building is grade one-listed, considered to be one of the masterpieces of Victorian architecture and cherished by the people of the city who view it as the civic heart of Manchester.

The Our Town Hall project includes both the safeguarding, partial restoration and upgrading of the Town Hall building and Albert Square. In January 2018, the building will officially close and the project will span across seven years with the Town Hall formally reopening in 2024. The delivery of quality social value outcomes is an essential element of this key city project, as recognised in the overarching project objectives. Outcomes for the project will be varied and diverse, including promoting employment and economic sustainability; raising the living standards of local residents; promoting participation and public engagement; building capacity and sustainability of the third sector; promoting equality and fairness; and promoting environmental sustainability.

The entire project team has made a number of social value commitments, and this includes both the commitments that will be delivered within their own organisation and those to be delivered in partnership with the supply chain.

During the lifetime of the project, more than 30 apprentices will be involved in the two-year M Futures apprenticeship programme. The apprentices will spend a period of time with each of the different companies in the project team, which each have teams co-located in the Town Hall. This will provide them with experience of a full range of disciplines in the project team, including project management, architectural design and building conservation, landscape design, structural and civil engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering and cost consultancy. The apprentices, aged between 18-20 years, are studying the Level 4 Apprenticeship in Construction Management.

This exciting project provides a unique opportunity for these committed young people to have a direct involvement in bringing back Our Town Hall to its former splendid glory for the people of Manchester to enjoy now and for the next 140 years.

  • Nicola Hewes is a partner in architecture practice Purcell

The North West in 2018 series features guest contributors looking ahead to next year and is published throughout December.

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