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Samuel Alexander Building, Manchester University


Project: Samuel Alexander Building, Manchester University

Country/city: UK / Manchester

Architect: Halliday Meecham Architects

Contractor: Manchester & Cheshire Construction

Ceiling Contractor: Brett Morris, North Derbyshire Interiors

Photographer: Martin Keogh 

The neoclassical Grade II listed Samuel Alexander building was opened in 1919 and is part of the University of Manchester’s South Campus. Following recent significant investment, the building’s academic offices and teaching spaces have been refurbished and breakout areas created, and the reception and café have been remodelled. The building houses the University’s School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. 

Fiona Wilford from Halliday Meecham Architects explained the project and its challenges:

The academic accommodation within The Samuel Alexander Building was reorganised to allow for the move of the University Language Centre (ULC) facilities from Oddfellows Hall to the School of Arts, Linguistics and Cultures. The scheme allowed for all the divisional accommodation to be successfully re‑provided in a new consolidated school, with the ULC occupying basement and ground floors. New student reception areas with common rooms and accommodation for support staff were created for each academic division. Running alongside the consolidation project were works to upgrade the mechanical and electrical services of Samuel Alexander.

The architect was keen to get a visually pleasing ceiling system, so the integration with services and the existing building was key.

The works were extensive and affected the whole of the South Wing of Samuel Alexander, West and North Wing and limited areas in the Classics Wing. Works to upgrade the South Entrance and the café and computer cluster were integrated whilst the project was on site. The building remained live during the construction period, with shared ‘decant’ accommodation provided for the academic staff.’

Ecophon’s Matthieu Cassinadri explained how the architects on the project were aiming for a high end look for the ceilings and how the use of Ecophon Focus products helped them achieve this. ‘We were able to offer support by coming up with a suitable specification and advising on the design to fit in with the constraints of the existing building.

In our experience it is always favourable to iron out any potential issues before the project gets to site,’ said Matthieu. ‘The architect was keen to get a visually pleasing ceiling system, so the integration with services and the existing building was key. They also wanted to include some colour in their design which Ecophon’s comprehensive Focus range was able to deliver.’

Focus E at in grey

The grey Focus E was installed at a higher level, with feature light fittings and a contrasting white ceiling with task lighting. 

Fiona described how Halliday Meecham worked with Ecophon to find solutions. ‘The aim was to increase the ceiling height within the existing South Wing entrance lobby and café and computer cluster. As per the university requirements, all ceilings must be accessible and easily demountable. The Focus ceiling provided the access, whilst still delivering the ‘flush’ appearance we desired. We chose to install the grey ceiling at a higher level, with feature light fittings and a contrasting white ceiling with task lighting. Service vents and radiant panels were colour matched to the tiles to help them blend into the overall ceiling.’

The building has a high footfall, particularly in the reception area and café and we were able to advise how best to deal with any potential room acoustic challenges. This was fairly easy to do given that the Focus ranges offers great visual and acoustic design in one,’ said Matthieu. ‘We were also on hand to assist when it came to installation giving on-site training and advise to the installer.’ 

‘Matthieu is our usual point of contact, he’s always very helpful,’ said Brett Morris of North Derbyshire Interiors. ‘We installed all the ceilings, partitions and wall linings. ‘The product is fine to work with and acoustically they’re very good. Aesthetically they’re excellent,’ he added. ‘The work has been very well received.’

Commenting on the end result he said:

The Focus ceiling tiles allowed us to achieve the clean, flush finish we required. By coordinating the tiles carefully with integrated services and lighting we were able to provide an attractive design within budget that allows for long term maintenance access.’


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