This project unites the City Art Gallery with the adjacent Athenaeum, both designed by Sir Charles Barry, by infilling the final quarter of the site. This satisfactorily completes the city block, in the Georgian grid plan of central Manchester. The overall development forms a single Gallery precinct, using a glazed foyer space to create a cross axis, connecting the new and old buildings, while allowing them to retain their individual integrity.
The main entrance is still through the Ionic portico of the old Gallery. The grand staircase leads to the piano nobile range of restored top-lit galleries. A footbridge crosses over the glazed link to the new extension, with it's own grand staircase and free standing lift towers. A continuous sequence of galleries on the first floor in the new building, match the scale and symmetry of the old and give access to the Athenaeum. A shop, coffee bar and restaurant, the Education Department, local Manchester Gallery and the loading dock occupy the ground floor.
Extensive pre-fabrication was used to speed up construction. The exposed pre-cast concrete frame expresses the volumes of the galleries within. Infill cladding panels are of locally quarried stone, set within bronze sub-frames, designed to compliment the stonework on the Atheneum.