Cloud 01
© Valerie Bennett
Cloud 08
© Valerie Bennett
Cloud 02
© Valerie Bennett
Cloud 06
© Valerie Bennett
Cloud 07
© Valerie Bennett
Cloud 04

Manchester Library Walk

We worked with SimpsonHaugh and Partners to design this link to the Manchester Central Library and the adjacent Town Hall Extension. Situated in a picturesque part of the city, the link structure has been placed in the Library Walk passageway that stretches between the two buildings, aiming to reduce congestion at the main entrances.

The project was an opportunity to experiment with new design tools, technologies and fabrication methods to allow the pure expression of structure in sculptural forms.

The centrepiece is the ‘cloud’, a 30-tonne polished stainless steel monocoque roof composed of prefabricated panels welded together to form a seamless object. The distinctive shape of the roof was form-found using mathematical algorithms designed to create a smooth, organic undulation in the soffit, based on spherical distortions of a flat surface. The stiffness and strength of the monocoque structure allows it to span 15 m across a column-free space.

This has been set carefully atop a vertical glazed wall of triple-layer, frameless structural glass panels of 7.2 m in height. These are wedged into a shoe at the base, allowing a simply supported connection to the roof. The glass panels are joined with structural silicon, so it acts as a monolithic shell that resists lateral loads created by wind.

The simplicity and purity of this building is achieved by the simple combination of the two structural elements of the roof and the vertical glass façade, which are rigid in virtue of their form. In other words the structure is the form, the enclosure as well as the support. As well as being a playful, sophisticated and sensitive sculptural piece, the project opens new opportunities within a more integrated approach to the design and fabrication of structural and cladding systems.

Glass-walled link structure with stainless steel monocoque ‘cloud’ roof in Manchester

Manchester, UK

Manchester City Council

SimpsonHaugh and Partners

£ 3.5 million

175 m²


  • 2016 RIBA Regional Award