From Cotton Mill to Mancunian Reflection: Designing the Whitworth Locke Hotel
A renovation of a 19th Century cotton mill in the UK city of Manchester, the newly completed Whitworth Locke hotel by Grzywinski+Pons draws inspiration from the surrounding city. We hear from the architects about how the project came to be
Located in Manchester, UK, the newly completed Whitworth Locke hotel is a 160-room project complete with a bar, café, lounge and co-working space.
Designed by New York-based architects Grzywinski+Pons, the project is located in a former 19th Century cotton mill and showroom, but has been reimagined to create a space that preserves the fabric of the original structure while reflecting the wider city as it is today.
The result is a dramatic and eclectic space, where bold colours and graphic structures sit alongside Victorian details, creating a space that is at once industrial, vibrant and homely in feel.
Preserving the building’s fabric
The project involved a complete gut renovation as well as the addition of further structures and a comprehensive fit-out. However, Grzywinski+Pons made considerable efforts to preserve much of the building’s original fabric.
“Our alteration of the property was principally driven by the intent to preserve and celebrate the richness of the historic 19th Century building fabric whilst obliterating a poor previous alteration to the building from the 1980s, all while creating a distinct new language commensurate to the new life and purpose we hoped to foster within,” said the architects.
“ Our aim in fostering tension between our new interiors and the stolid bones of the Victorian fabric was for one to exalt the other. ”
“We paid special attention to the thresholds into the building and the dialogue between our interventions and the beauty of the Victorian blocks.
“At the centre of the three blocks we removed previous alterations and simplified the glazed barrel volume of the atrium to maximise transparency of the assembly and in turn re-establish the vestigial visibility of the elevations of Central and Dominion Houses on to what was formerly a little road called Galbraith Street.”
These efforts to preserve the building’s structure were characterised by a use of contrast.
“We finished the structure in [a] colour we found tonally close to Manchester skies, and as such regressive, deferential to the both the prominence of the historic facades and all we designed within. We put in a floor — contiguous both inside and out — of granite block pavers that draws in passerby and guests alike, the new life and conviviality clearly legible to the street,” they added.
“These choices set the stage for our larger approach of maximising light, texture and crafting an interior throughout that extolled the virtue of the heritage assets via studied contrast.
“Our aim in fostering tension between our new interiors and the stolid bones of the Victorian fabric was for one to exalt the other.”
Taking inspiration from Manchester and beyond
While the aesthetics of the city influenced the design, Manchester’s history as a port town with reaches around the globe allowed for the architects to draw inspiration beyond the Mancunian borders.
“We seized upon a palette and language inspired by research into vintage visual communications promoting commercial industrial links that historically connected Manchester to far flung (and often warmer and brighter) corners of the globe,” said Grzywinski+Pons.
“We loved the link between Merseyside and the equatorial, and as we designed most of the furniture and all of the joinery in the project, we took this as inspiration for both material and formal choices.
“ There is an unabashedly new and bold language to the project. This conspicuous evolution reflects the way Manchester continues to grow and change. ”
“We designed the lighting and crafted the palette of warm materials and tones that at once envelop occupants and maximize the impact of the texture and rustication we both discovered and created throughout the property.
“We like to think we were just deferential enough to the heritage and beauty of the existing buildings, but there is an unabashedly new and bold language to the project. This conspicuous evolution reflects the way Manchester continues to grow and change.”
However, Manchester was not the only city that proved influential to the design. The historic architecture of Grzywinski+Pons’ own city of New York also proved inspirational.
“This commission had special resonance for us as the beautiful former textile warehouses and showroom were highly reminiscent of some of the earliest work we did designing interventions to 19th century masonry buildings — functional and stylistic contemporaries to these Mancunian structures — in our native New York City,” said the architects.
“The proportions, materials, textures and quality of light we inherited felt a bit like home and demanded to be exalted.”