Manchester Corn Exchange Phase I & II

Manchester, UK

The Victorian Era Manchester Corn Exchange was built in 1897 and Grade II listed in 1973. The striking five storey triangular structure has undergone many transformations throughout its storied history, surviving the Great Depression, WWII and bomb attacks. But recently it faced its most challenging battle, to stay relevant in today’s times.

One of the region’s busiest trading hubs before the war and a bustling marketplace throughout the 80’s and 90’s, after the 1996 bomb an extensive refurbishment took place to restore the glass dome, replace hundreds of windows and stabilise the structure for the creation of a 44 unit retail space.

However to be the heart of Manchester’s commerce once again, it needed more than just a makeover.

Buro Happold has a passion and proven track record for these type of projects. Since Aviva were appointed, we have worked closely with 5plus architects, Aviva Investors, English Heritage and other key project stakeholders to help make the Manchester Corn Exchange a hub for modern commerce and culture.


This project demonstrates some of the classic challenges Buro Happold faces in working with historic commercial properties.

Firstly, as a Grade II property, we needed to be completely aligned with English Heritage at every stage to preserve the cultural and historical features of the listed buildings and recreate them for modern use.

Secondly, the location. As is often the case in the ‘old town’ sections of cities that never planned for modern infrastructure, careful considerations had to be made to the surrounding buildings, their functions and access.

Lastly, to bring more than just the building into the future, but its function and place in the community. Although the Victorian era stone walls may go unchanged for hundreds more years, they’ll house a wide variety of today’s businesses and culture within.

manchester corn exchange
Our goal was to help make the Corn Exchange a humming commercial hub once again. Image: BHE


The redevelopment had to happen in two phases.

First, to include a 3 level restaurant complex extending into the central glass atrium. Secondly, to convert the remaining upper levels into a 114 mixed floor aparthotel, with lobby, hotel amenities and office spaces.

An outside in, inside out design approach connects the historic property to the streets and surrounding area. To do this, we re-introduced the original entrances, connecting them all through the central open dome part of the building and repurposing the atrium into a courtyard-style dining venue and social space.

Buro Happold was responsible for all ground and structural engineering and, at times, we too needed a unique approach.
Each stage of uncovering the existing structure presented our team with many unforeseen interventions. On top of this, there were major logistical challenges based on limited site access, so we needed to create bespoke solutions.

At Buro Happold we believe it’s critical to future proof a property as much as possible, and this was reflected in our work at the Corn Exchange. Increasing the commercial investment of the building yet decreasing the ‘fiddle factor’, which can contribute to its wear and tear over time.

manchester corn exchange
Beneath the famous old dome now lies over 44 new retail spaces and a bright new future. Image BHE


Some historic buildings despite their aesthetic qualities find their original fit for purpose is no longer relevant for today’s community needs.

The Manchester Corn Exchange project demonstrates how strategically planned ground and structural engineered solutions can preserve a building’s past and also redefine its future. These projects put many of our skills into practice and at times can be challenging, but there lies the reward.

After going through so much, Buro Happold is proud to help the Manchester Corn Exchange be ready for so much more.

manchester corn exchange
An outside in, inside out approach will reconnect people back to the building. Image: John Shakespeare

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