EBBA completed the design of a vertical extension to a modest historic building built in the 1870s as part of the largest children’s hospital in Manchester, UK. Of only two remaining buildings left behind, the lodge - a former gate house to the hospital - was transformed into a nursery in 2012 and was later enlarged to accommodate the client’s growing needs.
Over the years the small masonry structure had been added to without much regard for its architectural qualities or the integrity of its form, involving a careful process of uncovering and re-ordering the architecture. EBBA were commissioned to add a significant extension to provide much needed space for teaching and the staff. Dealing with a complicated ageing structure and the challenges of its previous transformations set the project's limitations and opportunities.
The original architecture is humble and unpretentious, apart from two of its sides that have tried to present a mature elevation onto the street. The form of the new massing is a playful attempt at tying the project to the character of the site, one dominated by the detached houses and pitched roofs, while also wanting to create a tent-like form that the children could relate to. The shape of the plan is defined by the perimeter of the building, while in places it steps back to respect the prominence of the window bays of the existing structure.
The extension is a new addition that attempts to complement the whole, while tying it in to the surrounding context. The strong banding created by the different staining processes on the cladding help to give a soft appearance and makes reference to the darker brick detailing around the existing building. The ambition for the architecture was to try to express an understanding of modern buildings being made of layers.
Internally the project offers an impressive set of spaces for early years learners. Designed as a sequence of rooms, the main pre-school area intends to offer opportunities for discovery and exploration. Staggered as three rooms within a room incrementally getting larger, the plan helps to compartmentalise the big teaching space. Tall ceilings rise with the pitch of the roof to create an airy, uplifting learning environment with walls and apex meeting to create a complex interior form like the early houses of Shinohara.
The low windows are imagined as large openings in the wall to provide views out to the garden and a large tree; even for small children. Big niches designed into the windows offer spaces to climb into and play, and a new grand staircase helps to elevate the communal areas, bringing light down in to what used to be a windowless corridor.