The Depot Management Company Ltd
Lead Consultant, Structural and Civil Engineer

Mayfield Depot, Manchester

Manchester International Festival occupied the derelict Mayfield Station to host a 2,000 person capacity performance of Massive Attack with Adam Curtis for the 2013 festival.

MIF employed Civic Engineers as lead consultants supported by Patrick Thomas Design to appraise the huge disused rail depot to determine the technical risks with regards to the existing structure and means of access and egress for the performances and crowd safety. Civic Engineers working alongside the festival production team on a tight programme developed and implemented a strategy that isolated parts of the complex, certified and opened up other areas for safe occupation and designed and implemented reinforcement works to make safe some critical elements within the building.

The success of the performance and its critical acclaim highlighted the potential of the building for use as a performance venue, which inspired the formation of the Mayfield Depot Company to develop a business plan and bring the building back into use as a versatile, 7,500 person performance venue within the city.

Mayfield Depot Company appointed Civic Engineers as lead consultant to undertake a detailed technical assessment of the 100 year old complex and develop a masterplan for the site to accommodate a wide variety of productions, ranging from theatre, exhibition, gallery, music and market. The business plan underpinning the initiative was based on a three year occupation, which brought with it the need to think highly creatively to ensure that investment in building fabric was thrifty and ensure the enterprise could achieve a return over this short occupation period.

The resulting proposal costed at £2.5m presented a scheme that preserved the unique abandoned atmosphere and historic architecture of the depot, while providing the essential infrastructure to service the diverse needs of the range of end uses. Sound containment along the expansive south elevation was a sensitive issue. However rather than pursue a conventional, expensive plaster boarded and block system the Civic Engineers led team developed a demountable 1 tonne bulk bag stacked system incorporating disused rail carriages that also served as bar and production accommodation space.

The existing depot has typically a 6m floor to soffit clearance on a 12m cruciform plate column grid. While these are generous proportions and the substantial columns were needed to carry the industrial rolling stock on the abandoned platforms above. However the Mayfield Depot Company required clear stage views and increased fly house capacity in the vicinity of the stage to offer a truly versatile venue. Civic Engineers developed a scheme that removed three columns that fouled the premium stage views, removing the corresponding three bays of historic masonry platforms above and installing a new truss roof system that provided clear views of the stage and housed the theatre staging and rigging system.

Key info
Manchester International Festival

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