Civil service: Wallpaper* Composed creates dazzling concepts for an architectural icon

Chair and table with lamps
Left, The Wallpaper* Composed team were asked to breathe new life into the rooms around the former Coroner’s Court. This living room concept shows the potential of the high-ceilinged spaces. Pictured: ’La Lampe’ floor light, by Ida Linea Hildebrand, for Friends & Founders. ’Ren’ wall mirror, by Neri & Hu, for Poltrona Frau. ’Eclectic’ cusions, by Hay. ’Mayor’ sofa, by Arne Jacobsen and Flemming Lassen, for &Tradition. ’Edge Ø35’ brass plate, by Stilleben, for Skagerak. ’Dancing Handles’ vases, by Jeanne Bonnefoy-Mercuriali, for TH Manufacture. ’Rodan’ coffee table, by Russell Pinch, for Pinch. ’Pon 1280’ side table, by Jasper Morrison, for Fredericia. ’Bonbon’ mini vases, by Monica Förster, for Skultuna. ’Vases 2’ vase, by Milia Seyppel, for Karakter. ’Herringbone Natural JT900’ rug, by Crucial Trading. Right, the Wallpaper* Composed team’s concept for a shared workspace. Pictured: ’Caché’ table lights, by Auréllien Barbry, for Le Klint. ’Planks’ table, by Max Lamb, for Benchmark. ’Edge Ø18’ pot and ’Edge Ø35’ pot, both by Stilleben, for Skagerak. ’Nomad’ letter tray and pen holder, both by VE2, for Skagerak. ’Uncino’ chairs, by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, for Mattiazzi. Interiors: Amy Heffernan
(Image credit: Tobias Harvey)

Back in 1899, after winning a national competition, Messrs Woodhouse, Willoughby and Langham set to work on a landmark fire station building on London Road, Manchester. The revered architects based their design for the multi-use structure on sketches drawn by the chief fire officer, George William Parker, on his shirt cuff. It was equipped with air conditioning and electric alarms, and was capable of accommodating the motorised fire engines that were to replace the old horse-drawn units.

After its completion in 1906, the red brick and Burmantofts terracotta structure became a bona fide Mancunian icon. This baroque cathedral to civic duty housed a seven-bay fire station, a police station, a bank, a coroner’s court, workers’ accommodation and a gas-meter testing station.

The building currently under development

The building currently under development originally contained a fire station, a police station, a bank, the Coroner’s Court, and workers’ flats, arranged around an inner courtyard. 

(Image credit: Tobias Harvey)

Eighty years later, the Greater Manchester fire department and the police station were relocated, and the magnificent Grade II-listed building was left vacant. A 30-year period of dereliction, decay and uncertainty followed. Various grand schemes to convert it into a hotel, a music venue and a museum all failed. In 2001, in a state of steep decline, the London Road fire station was placed on English Heritage’s Buildings and Structures at Risk register.

Too important to demolish and too expensive to redevelop, its future looked bleak.

Enter Mike Ingall, founder and CEO of Allied London. With the redevelopment of landmark buildings front and centre on his CV (most notably London’s brutalist Brunswick Centre, designed by Patrick Hodgkinson), Ingall set to work on his own grand plan for London Road. The reimagined building will combine 21st-century living and working arrangements with a boutique hotel, ‘all underpinned by carefully-curated event, leisure and cultural spaces that will bring a new dynamic to the city’.

Protection and preservation are at the heart of Allied London’s proposal. The integrity, fabric and layout of the original design will be regarded as inspirational rather than troublesome. Fixtures and fittings such as oak doors, firemen’s poles, old light switches and Shaker-style coat pegs will be made good. Ripped-out fireplaces will be reinstalled, layers of vintage wallpaper in the living quarters will be framed in situ as artworks. The decayed will be restored and replaced, the distressed made good and adapted. Earlier this year, Allied London’s plans were approved by Manchester City Council. After three decades, London Road is ‘action stations’ once more.

club room.

The view across the bar in the building’s original club room.

(Image credit: Tobias Harvey)

It was the fire station’s courtyard that most inspired Ingall. Working with architects Levitt Bernstein, he will oversee the installation of a glass box at ground level and a major excavation that will unlock the potential of the building’s vast basement as a public events space. ‘We hope it will function rather like Wilton’s Music Hall in London, morphing between uses and creating a hub of activity,’ Ingall says.

To help envision the possibilities for the development’s interiors, Ingall approached the Wallpaper* Composed team, led by interiors director Amy Heffernan, and London-based interior architecture practice Amos and Amos, with a brief to create a concept for contemporary live/work spaces within the rooms originally given over to the coroner’s court. Ingall has asked the Zetter Group to run the five-storey boutique hotel, while the complex will also offer restaurants, bars, interactive art spaces, coffee shops, flower stalls, a cinema and a spa.

It sounds like a lot of work (completion is set for summer 2019), but Ingall is keen to play down the scale of the redevelopment and instead talk up the fire station’s gentle renovation. ‘It would be impossible to build something to the original standard of London Road today,’ he says. ‘And all things considered, the building is in a pretty good state. We don’t actually need to do a lot… and we don’t really want to either.’

The notion of careful intervention rather than major reconstruction is key in a project like this, Ingall explains. ‘It’s less about what you are adding, but [more about] how you are adding and how little you can take away. Anyone can develop a new building. But few can make an old building work again, make it sustainable… make it live again.’

As originally featured in the October 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*223)

Civil service: Wallpaper

Left, the seven-bay fire station was designed for the motorised engines that were replacing horse-drawn units. Right, the laundry room’s original drying system

(Image credit: TBC)

looking down from the balcony over the courtroom.

Left, looking down from the balcony over the courtroom. Wallpaper* Composed commissioned the custom-made cushions. Right, exploring the idea of turning the Coroner’s Court into a members’ club or events space, the team introduced this drinks cabinet by Pinch Design to the balcony overlooking the courtroom. Pictured: ’Frans’ drinking cabinet, by Russell Pinch, for Pinch. ’Otis’ champagne flutes, cocktail glasses and tumblers, all by Monika Lubkowska-Jonas, for LSA International. ’Plum’ cocktail shaker, by Tom DixonRaspberrry-infused gin, by Manchester Gin. Vodka, by Konik’s Tail. Bourbon, by Kings County Distillery

(Image credit: TBC)

Civil Service

Left, the team complemented the drinks cabinet on the balcony with this informal set-up. Pictured: ’Ultralight’ floor light, by Maciej Kossowski, for Ultralight. ’Patina’ oil lamp, by Broberg & Ridderstråle, for Klong. ’Tank’ lowball glasses, by Tom Dixon. ’Gray 24’ chairs, by Paola Navone, for Gervasoni. ’Pon 1280’ side table, by Jasper Morrison, for Fredericia. Right, the left-hand doors in this lobby lead to a stairwell and then the street, while the doors on the right open onto the balcony. Pictured: ’Step Mini’ step stool, by Karl Malmvall, for Design House Stockholm. ’Hub’ umbrella stand, by Jordan Murphy, for Umbra. ’Trio’ console table, by Neri & Hu, for De La Espada. Earthenware candle holder, by Cecilie Manz, for Republic of Fritz Hansen. ’Koppa’ magazine rack, by Tuuli Burman & Tuttu Sillanpää, for Verso Design

(Image credit: TBC)


For more information, visit the London Road Manchester website