Manchester's Town Hall Extension is a building of national significance, among the best examples of architecture of its period and part of a civic complex of world class stature. Manchester City Council intend to transform the working environment within the building and to create welcoming, inspirational and active public spaces, including a 'one stop' Public Service Hub, which will transform the way in which the City Council's services, and other public services, are delivered to customers.
There will be two public entrances (Mount Street and St Peter's Square) as well as two dedicated staff entrances (Lloyd Street). The public entrances will be restored to appear much as they did in the 1930's, by removing the cluttered modern additions, including the bulky security booths. Each public entrance will also provide access to a new lift and stairs that take visitors to the lower ground floor, which will be extensively converted and opened out to house the extended Central Library.
The main entry to the public service hub will be through the 'Rates Hall', restoring this space to its former glory and once again opening up this magnificent part of the building to the people of Manchester.
Upon entry to the hall, customers will be met by customer service staff and directed to where they need to go, whether that is speaking to an advisor in the open plan customer service environment, receiving specialist advice in a private interview room, or using the self service computer or telephone areas.
Within the public service hub the original roof lights will be refurbished, making the space light, bright and open. Light wells in the floor will allow natural light to stream into the extended Central Library in the lower ground floor. Towards the back of the public service hub will be a suite of meeting rooms, with their own waiting area, that will enable staff to meet groups of visitors.
In the 1930's, the part of the building along St Peter's Square was an electricity show room. The north end of this space will now be an exciting new library area, that will showcase new technology, and attract new customers by offering unique opportunities to explore, create and collaborate in a media rich environment. At the southern end of this area, there will be a new café area with room for up to 80 people to sit. This will be open to staff and customers. It is likely to serve hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and snacks.
The public toilets will be moved to Lloyd Street. (It is the intention to provide a continuous provision of public toilets throughout the construction period), allowing the Mount Street area (a former gas appliance show room in the 1930's) to be opened out. This part of the building will be developed to support the public service hub.
The Lower Ground Floor
The access to the lower ground floor will be through two new lifts and staircases near the public entrances, and a staircase near the café. This staircase has been covered over the years, but will be refurbished and reinstated.
New light wells in the ceiling will provide natural light from above. Much of the lower ground floor will be opened out and used as the new extended Central Library. Open for longer than ever before, the library will be packed with all the things you like best, from best-sellers to DVDs, music and computers. There'll be something on our shelves for every taste.
This is where new technology will really play its part in making the library more convenient than it's ever been. You'll be able to browse online, then call to pick up what you've chosen, then issue it yourself with your library card. You'll be able to download e-books and audio books from home or in the library.
Everyone will find a niche in the extended Central Library, there'll be songs and stories for little ones in a bright and exciting children's zone; young people will have a place of their own with computers for school or for gaming, plus books and study support. We'll have quiet places and noisy places, you simply choose where you want to be that day. New layouts and technology will enable all types of visit, from groups working collaboratively on projects through to those who want to read the paper in peace.
Behind the scenes, there will be a kitchen (which will serve the café above via food lifts) and a secure area for cycle storage. Other areas critical to the running of the building will also be placed here (for example, plant and facilities management space, waste collection etc.)
Upper floors (office accommodation and meeting rooms)
General office accommodation for Council staff is on all the floors above the ground floor. Many of the corridors will be removed, to create a more modern, light, open plan working environment, which improves communication between teams, but also uses the space much more efficiently. Some of the original internal corridors are kept near lift lobbies. These both preserve the original design intent of the building, which is important from a heritage perspective, and create spaces for new meeting rooms, toilets and other facilities.
On the second floor, the Council chamber will be retained and the Committee rooms will be given a light touch restoration, but their current appearance will remain.