26 Lever Street\

A new workspace and community rooftop garden

The Sheila Bird Group and Hawkins\Brown have developed a shared vision for The Rooftop Project atop 26 Lever Street, Manchester.

The extension will create additional commercial floor space of 350 sq m – one full floor (4th), and connected by an internal accommodation stair to the third floor. The Rooftop Project will sensitively connect back into the existing fourth floor at 24 Lever Street through existing apertures as well as reconciling interstitial spaces at third floor. External shared amenity space will be created at the rooftop level and will be served by a new/dedicated circulation.

Critically the project presents a unique opportunity to make the rooftop ‘garden’ initiative permanent; to support the community facing side of the building and provide a great event space for shared use, including dedicated WC’s, storage space, better power, lighting and servicing and potential for cover in bad weather.


sq m
of additional commercial floor space

The challenge

The challenge is to create a design that is both engaging and forward thinking, to reflect the creative client base and neighbourhood, whilst balancing the sensitive heritage needs of the existing building and historic location. The proposal is sensitive to the forms, architectural detail, materiality and industrial history of the Northern Quarter and Manchester. Within its appearance the proposal celebrates its position within a historic, creative, and mixed use square, rich in variety of architectural styles, materials and details but with common themes. Its detailing and use of materials will provide a modern interpretation of Manchester’s industrial past relating to its physical and social history.

The big idea

We are engaging with the historic context, a ‘Terraced Street’ massing has been used; creating a strong and coherent form whilst respecting the existing roof conditions of the area. The proposed form is reminiscent of the historic ‘crown’ of the building (no longer evident) and presents the opportunity to reintroduce and re-imagine these architectural features. This modern interpretation of a historic roof form will incorporate traditional materials and detailing. The scale and proportion of the bays have been carefully considered, with iterations of five, six, and seven bays having been tested. Each iteration responded to different patterns within the existing elevation or fabric of 26 Lever Street.

The seven bay option was chosen due to its deference to the existing structural grid and the aesthetic and rhythm of the windows of 26 Lever Street. © Dominic Sagar

“Hawkins\Brown have played a significant part in making this project viable. The various challenges of building a ‘crown’ on top of a listed building in the heart of the Northern Quarter are full of problems. Their enthusiasm has converted these problems into opportunities that have made us smile. Would I recommend them to you, definitely? Will they deliver, absolutely? And best of all they offer true value and 100% commitment to doing what is right.”

Atul Bansal Partner, Sheila Bird Group

  • Project Details
  • Heritage
  • Social Value

Project Summary


  • Manchester Architects Awards 2017 - President's Choice - Unbuilt - Winner
  • Manchester Architects Awards 2017 - Commercial - Unbuilt - Runner Up


24 Lever Street is a medium sized purpose built warehouse constructed in 1897-98 for Johnsons & Sons, intended for the storage of hardware and metal products. The building, sat within the Stevenson Square conservation area, was given Grade II listing in 1994, although 26 Lever Street to which it is adjoined is not. The north east elevation of 26 Lever Street faces into the historic Stevenson Square; lined with retail and commercial businesses housed within a mixture of historic and newer build developments. In creating a new rooftop condition the proposal aims to be sensitive to its context within the square and conservation area. Our design process involved exploring and investigating the existing and historic conditions of the area before interpreting these to create a modern yet contextual approach.

Social Value

The proposal will build on the great success of the current Rooftop ‘Garden’ Project that has brought the previously underused space of the rooftop of 26 Lever Street to life with a varied programme of events, engaging a wide cross section of people. Through the hard work and generosity of everyone collaborating on the Rooftop Project with the Curiosity Bureau, the rooftop garden has blossomed into a fruitful social space for the tenants at 24 Lever Street and a place that is inviting an increasing involvement from local communities. Already it is growing conversations with Ladies Room/National Trust, UpRising, Open Cinema, Manchester School of Art and many more. The proposal will give the community access to amenities such as an outdoor screen, power lighting, water supply, as well as shelter in inclement weather. It should also allow for more inclusive access through provision of level access to any upper stories. The provision of these amenities will allow for improved management of the space and any events held there by providing secure access to the Rooftop space and facilities.

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