Manchester Metropolitan University; Faculty of Humanities, Languages & Social Science

Following on from our design work at Manchester School of Art & MYRIAD faculties, we were delighted to work again with Manchester Metropolitan University to design & furnish the Humanities buildings at the All Saints Campus on Oxford Road.

The main HLSS atrium

main atrium all 3

The brief was to create comfortable, practical and versatile seating areas to accommodate the high volume of staff and students which pass through the building each day and to also function for a range of conferences and events. The building was originally very sparsely furnished and the Dean was keen to create a big impact on entering the space.  We also had to consider the requirements and function of the space when used for events and open days so we had to provide design solutions taking all of these things into account, allowing flexibility and reconfiguration.  The general concept was to give each floor its own identity by way of colour but using certain key pieces throughout every floor for continuity.

Colour upholstered cube seating on the fourth floor

lift lobby

The most impressive feature of the Geoffrey Manton building is the 4 storey central atrium, flooded with natural light from its glass roof.  This space is the hub of the building and was virtually empty apart from a few mismatched pieces of furniture.  The Dean wanted to encourage people to occupy the space by making it a pleasant place to spend time.  In order to bring a more human scale to the vast space, we wanted to introduce a planting scheme and bring some of the outdoors in.  To do this we used the aptly named “Romeo & Juliet” bench from Extremis which has integrated planters and is wide enough for people to sit on both sides.  These 6.4 m long benches form the perimeter of an internal courtyard and were planted with olive trees due to their evergreen and low maintenance nature and created a canopy to sit underneath.

Young & Ancient Olive trees create an internal park within the main atrium

main atrium rear

At  4 corner points, bigger ancient gnarly olive trees were elevated in giant illuminated planters from Serralunga, which can also be remotely programmed to change colour. These older trees were sourced from a specialist who rescued them from destruction as they are no longer suitable for olive production and the LED lighting sources are long life and energy efficient.

Serralunga Illuminated Pots & Hitch Mylius sofas

main atrium centre 1

We also specified furniture from British manufacturers Hitch Mylius and James UK.  The pebble shaped HM63 sofas and benches were upholstered in a durable contract grade leather in a variety of natural tones to link in with the outdoor theme.  The combination of high and low backed Norton sofas allowed us to create more private seating areas at the rear of the space.

James UK upholstered buttoned sofas

lower atrium rear 2

The lower atrium was again an under-used and unfurnished space, used primarily for students to congregate before and after lectures.  We transformed this space into 3 zones using bespoke designed bookcases as room dividers, and large rugs to demarcate each area and soften the acoustics.  Not only did the bookcases divide up the space, they also served to function as a library resource where students have free access to journals and periodicals written by their tutors.

Lower Atrium Library & lounge spaces

lower atrium all 2


Feature custom bookcases create 3 distinct zones

lower atrium Centre 2

The theme was based around that of a gentleman’s club and this informed our rich colour palette of dark greys, brown leather and walnut – accented with an acid yellow which was the feature colour chosen for this floor.

Moroso V&A Lounge Chairs & Melampo lighting

lower atrium Left 1

A modern interpretation of the classic chesterfield was evident in the Onkel sofa from Normann Copenhagen and Norton sofa’s again from James UK.

Lovely Onkel Sofa – a contemporary Chesterfield

Lower atrium Centre 1

In the other zones we created more private spaces for individuals, using the About a lounge chair from Hay and the Little Albert armchair by Ron Arad from Moroso. Each of these offering the versatility that the university required.  A family of different sized coffee tables were scattered throughout the space and were offset by 2 vintage chess tables.  To add some ambient light we also supplied the over-sized Melampo Mega floor light from Artemide.

Lower Atrium lounge space

lower atrium Left 2

Throughout the upper floors we created informal waiting areas, each colour coded to its floor using accents of colour on the rugs, cushions and trims.  The modular Mags sofa was used due its huge variety of combinations and was upholstered in a hard-wearing wool fabric was used throughout to tie the different pieces together.

Upper floor waiting area


In each lift lobby, we had upholstered cubes made which linked together to form benches or could be used individually.  These were upholstered in a blend of colours assigned to each floor.

Colour-coded lift lobby seating elements

lift lobby 2

A similar concept was followed through into the Mabel Tylecote building which connects to Geoffrey Manton via a link corridor on the 1st floor.  Again the compact Norton sofas were used, and large “island” compositions of the Mags sofa allowed students to sit on all sides.

Main atrium viewed from on-high

main atrium high

It was fantastic to work with such a great client who was prepared to push the boundaries and do something radically different with the space. The result is the creation of an internal park and lounge & library spaces which enables the building to be more fully used, has great visual impact and provides a versatile & amenable space for both students and staff – as former students of the institution we were once again proud to be involved with such a prestigious project.

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