13th February 2019

Redeveloping Manchester’s iconic Contact

In collaboration with Sheppard Robson Architects, we are working on the redevelopment of Manchester’s iconic Contact.  As structural and civil engineers, this project provides many exciting challenges to remodel the existing building and create a modern performance venue whilst retaining the iconic character of the original theatre.

Constructed in the 1960s the theatre was redeveloped in the 1990s by architect, Alan Short. The project brief includes remodelling the venue’s entrance, opening up the bar area, demolishing part of the existing structure and introducing a three-storey extension to the south elevation. The team also needs to preserve key aspects of the iconic structure, for example, the existing 10m-tall ventilation towers that were braced by the structure demolished to make way for the extension.

A key aim of the project is to enhance the visitor’s experience and provide a streamlined circulation route to all public areas and performance spaces. Additional performance areas, conference spaces and new office accommodation will also be created; thus, offering opportunities for increased community and hire activities to support Contact in their aim to become more self-sustainable and resilient.  The project costs will be in the region of £6.65 million and £3.85 million of this has been awarded by the Arts Council. The Professional Team is led by Mace and also includes Simon Fenton Parnership (QS), Max Fordham (Engineers) and Theatre Projects (Theatre Specialists). Parkinson are the main contractor.

The project is challenging and the trickiest elements so far have been due to previous building modifications and the variation between the existing construction drawings and the as-built condition due to a fire on site during the construction of the previous redevelopment and subsequent value engineering exercises.  Another key challenge has been the design of a new central stair that is designed to be supported completely from existing structure to ensure existing circulation spaces are not compromised by the introduction of new supports.  Significant analysis and investigation works have been carried out on the existing structure to ensure that we gain a deeper understanding of the structure’s capacity and ability to support new the stair loads.

Last week, the steel frame was completed and it is hoped the redevelopment will be finished in autumn this year. The improved Contact Theatre will provide an exciting, new venue for the community, particularly the next generation of audiences and entertainers for whom it will increase the number and range of creative opportunities available to them.

Images courtesy of F Parkinson