Context 164 - May 2020

38 C O N T E X T 1 6 4 : M A Y 2 0 2 0 2. Plan form and circulation The plan form was designed to allow multiple uses and the corridor plan is one of the key components of the building’s significance.There are the triangular site, four entrances, spiral staircases, and the central corridor with periph- ery internal spaces, enclosing the Great Hall and Police Station in the central area, within court- yards. The layout is simple and legible, allowing the separation and expression of various uses in a hierarchy of spaces. 3. Civic pride and collective memory The collective memory derives from the mean- ing of a place for the people who relate to it, and the position the town hall holds within the collective past, present and future experiences of visitors and the people of Manchester. It is crucial to understanding significance locally and nationally. From a gathering place for com- memorative events to a public visitor space, the town hall has both positive and negative experiences associated with it, differing for each individual. The continued civic and ceremonial role that the town hall embodies is significant. 4. Continued use and functionality The town hall continues to function in its original use as a civic and ceremonial hub.These uses are tangibly expressed within the building and the designed functionality of the spaces adds substantially to their importance. 5. Architectural form The architectural language of the town hall is coherently expressed externally and internally throughout the building as a monument to neo- gothic architecture and the aesthetic movement. The high-quality carvings, techniques, materials and decorative details are part of the building’s aesthetic significance, and its presence within the townscape of Manchester is highly impor- tant. Its setting within Albert Square expresses its hierarchical intent through decorative detail, and many of the internal rooms exhibit the hier- archy of spaces through their embellishment. The next key element of the strategy was to secure heritage-led change as part of the decision-making process. This required a clear and succinct pathway for decision making that could apply to everything from the restoration of decorative paintwork to the insertion of new lift cores.The methodology was brought forward into presentations and regular engagement ses- sions with Historic England and the Victorian Society, whose input throughout the project has been valuable and constructive. The Victorian Society has called it ‘one of the biggest and most significant projects the society has been engaged with for many years…we con- sider the nature of the consultation process to date has been exemplary.’ The heritage-led strategy for the Our Town Hall project engaged and empowered professionals in related fields to engage in the positive conservation of significance as an integrated part of the design process. Not only did this lead to better collabora- tion and understanding of positively managing change to heritage sites, but it formed the basis of further bespoke conservation principles and strategies for the building – for everything from restoration to the distribution of plumbing. The town hall’s courtyards This article is a companion to ‘Respecting Waterhouse’ by Christina Sinclair, Rebecca Stone and TomWaterson, Context 159, May 2019. Christina Sinclair is senior heritage consultant and Rebecca Burrows associate heritage consultant, both with Purcell.