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Manchester Central Library and Town Hall

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Extensive “transformation program” includes vertical circulation core scenic elevators.

The Manchester Town Hall and Central Library complex in Manchester, U.K., comprises three of the city’s most iconic buildings situated in the heart of its bustling center, providing a stunning juxtaposition of eclectic architectural genres comprising the Grade 1-listed Victorian Neo Gothic Town Hall, designed by Alfred Waterhouse and completed in 1877. The edifice was subsequently complemented by E. Vincent Harris’ combined undertaking of the Classical Pantheon-inspired circular Central Public Library, which opened in 1934. This, in turn, was followed by the dramatic Neo Gothic Town Hall Extension, finished in 1938. The latter building has since served as the Manchester City Council’s municipal headquarters.

In 2011, following approximately 80 years of demanding public service, the Town Hall Extension and Central Library were closed in preparation for a three-year, GBP100-million (US$165.89-million)-plus “transformation program” designed to sympathetically modernize and re-orientate two of Manchester’s most historic landmark buildings to provide users and the community with a vibrant, multifunctional customer-service center, exhibition/entertainment area, cafés and bistros, in addition to the existing library.

Aside from all of the grand history and world-class knowledge banks housed within the building’s interior laid a less-well-known fact and point of great civic pride: the original Central Library lifts (two passenger and six book hoists) were designed and installed by Etchells Congden and Muir of Ancoats, Manchester. This company was prolific in lift engineering throughout the world, and supplied and installed lifts as far afield as Russia, Peru and Venezuela. Derivatives of the original passenger lifts were finally removed as part of the current transformation; however, although now out of commission, the original book hoists remain in situ.

After a rigorous tender process, ANSA Elevators Ltd. was awarded the contract to design, build and install the new lifts in the soon-to-be-transformed complex. The company felt this was a fitting development after the 80 years since the original commission, as ANSA has very strong roots and ties with Etchells, Congden and Muir. The appointment paid tribute to the commitment of the Manchester City Council and multinational construction company Laing O’Rourke (headquartered in Dartford, U.K.) to utilize local skills on such a complex and prestigious project.

The contract required detailed traffic analysis, design and engineering input from the outset. The strict requirements of the Manchester City Council’s “Design for Access” criteria demanded high levels of functionality for all users, coupled with a strict aesthetic brief from the architects. The whole of the project involved 16 lifts in total and ran in phases over the aforementioned three-year period, during which the building went through a major transformation, adding floors and creating a new lower ground link from the Town Hall to the library complex.

The vertical transportation is highlighted by two 16-person, 1.6-mps scenic passenger lifts set within the complex’s “Central Circulation Core.” The subtle radius of the shafts provided an engineering challenge ANSA met by working with its supply partners at Wittur. The company engaged two apprentices on the project, who worked on all aspects of the design and build process.

The scenic lifts are machine room less with Kollmorgen control systems installed remotely from the shafts in order to meet the strict “clean line” requirement of the architect. The finished result delivers a solution that meets the high traffic demands in the revamped building that now provides Manchester with a world-class information resource, performance spaces and cultural reference points for the 21st century. The entire contract was completed on budget and on time in January.

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