The Contact Theatre
Structural Engineer

The Contact Theatre, Manchester

The Contact Theatre was built in 1999 to a design by Professor Alan Short and incorporates a university theatre auditorium that dates back to the 1960’s. It is a striking building with tall chimney stacks that provide natural ventilation.

Civic Engineers are appointed as Structural Engineers on this Arts Council supported project to modernise and extend the theatre.  The project includes new performance space, front-of house facilities, extension of the building on the southern elevation including new solar chimneys.

One of the key aspects of the project is the design and construction of a new feature staircase that significantly improves vertical circulation and is fully supported by existing structure with no additional vertical structure required. The stair is steel construction with concrete infill treads. Steel stringers span between existing structure with steel folded plates creating permanent formwork for insitu concrete treads. The stair provides significantly more streamlined access between level 1 and level 2. The existing foundations were assessed to confirm that the additional load did not exceed the foundation capacity.

We are also responsible for assessing the existing structure prior to demolition and proposing work required to ensure the retained structure remained stable. A key area is the stability of five existing 15m tall steel natural ventilation ‘turrets’. These turrets are currently stabilised by the existing structure due to be demolished. Civic Engineers analysed the existing structural arrangement and produced an alternative structural load path that transfers the load through the existing part of the building due to be retained. This was achieved through the introduction of new steel circular hollow sections located vertically and horizontally within the existing roof structure to divert the load to existing load bearing masonry walls.

Key info
The Contact Theatre, Manchester