When the Whitworth, part of The University of Manchester, launched an architectural competition for its extension, it wanted a design that would make its important collection accessible to a wider range of visitors and re-establish the relationship with its grounds, home of England’s first gallery in a park.
The winning design, by McInnes Usher McKnight Architects (MUMA), is both sensitive and inspirational – glass, stainless steel and brick have been married with the Grade II listed building to create an elegant exhibition space overlooking the park. And with over 440,000 people visiting each year, GEZE UK were chosen to create an automatic entrance to ensure that the building – and therefore the art - is accessible to all.
The new glass entrance connects the gallery to the surrounding park and features two sets of sliding glass doors powered by GEZE’s Slimdrive SL NT automatic operators. The doors have been positioned directly opposite each other to create a lobby. This contributes to sustainability by ensuring heat loss and gain is minimised without limiting accessibility. It also helps to ensure a pleasant even temperature for visitors and staff without blasts of hot or cold air when the doors are opened.
Thanks to its slim design and a drive unit height of just 7cm, the Slimdrive SL NT operator has been discretely installed so it is barely noticeable to the user. The operators are finished in the same brushed simulated stainless steel finish as the porch structure and two 130mm diameter stainless steel bollards with push pads have been installed to allow visitors to activate the doors. Pocket screens have been installed to ensure the safety of visitors to the gallery.
As with all GEZE’s automatic operators the Slimdrive SL NT enables compliance to the Equality Act and BS 8300.
The Whitworth’s £15m extension project has already been recognised by the architectural community scooping a RIBA National Award 2015, Building of the Year in the RIBA North West Regional Awards and two AJ Retrofit Awards – Cultural & Public Buildings and Heritage & Listed Buildings. It has also been awarded the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 for ‘redefining the way that it engages with its public, connecting the building and surrounding park’. It was also was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize.
Andy Howland, sales director of GEZE UK added: “The Whitworth is a culturally significant building with a collection of huge national importance, so it was a privilege to be involved in creating an entrance that would help make it easily accessible to the thousands of people that visit each year.
“The Slimdrive SL NT has been designed to be aesthetically pleasing whilst offering exceptional functionality and reliability, which is why it is chosen time and again for buildings such as the Whitworth that have high levels of footfall.”