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Special Exhibitions Gallery at the Science and Industry Museum wins Heritage Project of the Year at the AJ Architecture Awards

The museum’s spectacular new 725 square metre flexible gallery, designed by architects Carmody Groarke opened in May and has been named as Heritage Project of the year. 

The Architects' Journal applauded it as a “clever, targeted intervention” which “simultaneously creates a destination within the site, orientates visitors by relocating the entrance, and renders the museum’s complex of Victorian buildings more porous and connected to the surrounding city”.

The new gallery was designed to originate and host some of the world's best science exhibitions and experiences in the North, thanks to a generous £3.8 million grant from the DCMS and additional support from other funders. 

Designed by award-winning architectural practice Carmody Groarke, working alongside Manchester building contractor HH Smith & Sons, the transformation of part of the lower ground floor of the museum's Grade II listed New Warehouse reveals grand industrial beauty with stunning modern and sustainable design. It has opened-up public access as a gallery space to this part of the much-loved museum's globally significant site for the first time, already welcoming over 67, 000 visitors through its doors. Visitors can currently see world-first exhibition Cancer Revolution: Science, innovation and hope which opened last month in the gallery to critical acclaim.

A reception desk in a museum gallery Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
An illuminated entrance to a museum gallery Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

The new gallery is the first project to be completed in the museum’s long-term multi-million pound restoration programme to conserve its historic buildings, open up new spaces for all to enjoy, play and learn in and to generate vital skills opportunities to support the innovators of the future. The current groundbreaking decarbonisation project in progress at the museum which will use the natural resource of an aquifer beneath the site to save 515 tonnes of carbon each year and place zero carbon technology at the heart of the visitor experience was also described as “ingenious” by the judges.  

The New Warehouse was built in 1882 from brick, cast and wrought iron and sandstone to provide storage for the Great Western Railway and designed to support the weight of goods wagons entering the building and unloading cargo (which would have been moved through to the lower ground floor through ceiling hatches still visible today). Used as museum stores until recently, the historic fabric of the lower ground floor has been revealed and restored, allowing visitors to experience the grandeur and scale of the original warehouse space while enjoying new exhibition experiences.

An empty new gallery space in a museum, with a brick ceiling and iron girders and pillars Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
An empty new gallery space in a museum, with a brick ceiling and iron girders and pillars Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

The original and the modern have been combined to pave the way for a sustainable gallery of the future, setting a new design standard for the rest of the masterplan of the museum to follow in years to come. 

Key features include beautifully restored Victorian industrial architecture, including thick red brick walls with blue brick detail, steel and brick "jack arch" ceilings, including a focal high section beneath the historic platform above (now the Textiles Gallery on the upper level). These historic features have been enhanced with high quality contemporary materials and design including signature illuminated fibreglass panels (hand-cast by Streamline Fibreglass in Trafford Park) in the external and front of house areas which light the space with a warm glow and described as “ethereal” by the judges. In the gallery, new walls house all necessary services for the space and are a blank canvas for exhibitions.

Iron beams and pillars holding up a brick ceiling Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
The corner of two brick walls, using black bricks instead of red for the corner Science Museum Group © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

An improved outdoor welcome area in the lower courtyard of the museum is fully accessible and provides stunning vistas under the historic viaduct (also known as the Pineapple Line), with its monumental round cast iron and square sandstone pillars infilled with brick jack-arching. This beautiful colonnade and area of the site will be incorporated in years to come in new connections and entrances between the Science and Industry Museum, The Factory and the developing St John's and Castlefield neighbourhoods as this vibrant area of the city comes alive together. 

This new gallery, with its generous ceiling heights and apertures, dedicated object preparation and handling facilities, secure access routes and first-rate environmental controls will enable the museum to display larger collection items and set works, as well as provide a better visitor experience and visitor facilities for audiences to explore science in all its forms. 

The £5 million Special Exhibitions Gallery was being generously funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Wellcome and Garfield Weston Foundation, with further support from the Kirby Laing Foundation and The Zochonis Charitable Trust. 

Carmody Groarke's recent projects include the critically acclaimed Windermere Jetty Museum, and a temporary museum for Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House near Glasgow. 


The Special Exhibitions Gallery is the first project to be completed in the Science and Industry Museum's multi-million-pound restoration plan, which will conserve and further open up its globally significant buildings and bring to life the story of the site and past, present and future ideas that change the world. Housing the world's oldest surviving passenger railway station and world's first railway warehouse in the heart of the world's first industrial city, alive with science and technology today, a more sustainable museum is being created to provide inspiring experiences for everyone. Information on all current projects including the restoration of the Power Hall can be found on the We are changing page.      


Please read Project Director Anna Hesketh's feature on how the project's real beauty lies in the power of combining the original and the modern to pave the way for a sustainable gallery of the future. 


The Science and Industry Museum's Senior Curator of Industrial Heritage, Katie Belshaw peels back the layers of history in this feature, which reveals why the gallery space itself deserves as much attention as the exhibitions it will host. 

The New Warehouse (also known as the Great Western Railway Warehouse) was completed in 1882 with two railway tracks running into its west end from the 1867 viaduct. It represents a state-of-the-art warehouse of the late nineteenth century. 


Following a large-scale design competition, architects and principal designers Carmody Groarke were appointed in November 2015. A decision was made to move the location of the Special Exhibitions Gallery to the preferred position of the New Warehouse following investigation work that uncovered that the initial proposed location of the museum's historic 1830 viaduct was less suitable for housing fragile or sensitive objects. The 1830 viaduct and interlinked structures of the Station Building and 1830 Warehouse will also be further restored with initial work commencing this year. 

Since establishing in 2006, Carmody Groarke have developed a reputation for working internationally on a wide range of arts, cultural and heritage projects. They recently completed the critically acclaimed Windermere Jetty Museum in the Lake District, and a temporary museum for Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House near Glasgow, and they are currently designing a significant new zero-carbon exhibition and events building for the Design Museum in Ghent, within the UNESCO world heritage city context. Carmody Groarke's work has been recognised through several prestigious architectural awards, including the Civic Trust National Panel Special Award 2020, the Architects' Journal Building of the Year 2019 and Building Design Architect of the Year 2018. Two monographs of the practice's work have been published by the world renowned El Croquis and 2G. 

Following a public procurement process, HH Smith & Sons was appointed in October 2019 as the main building contractor for the Special Exhibitions Gallery project. Established in 1955, HH Smith & Sons are a family construction company based in north Manchester and have recently completed the Halle St. Peter's project.  

Further members of the project team led by Project Director Anna Hesketh and Client Project Manager Mark Tomlinson for the Science and Industry Museum include:  

  • Structural Engineers – Price & Myers    
  • Service Engineers – Skelly & Couch    
  • Cost Consultant – Appleyard & Trew    
  • Project Manager – Gardiner & Theobald    
  • Heritage Consultants – Heritage Architecture    
  • Planning Consultant – Deloitte Real Estate    
  • Approved Inspector – Butler and Young    
  • Fire Engineer – Design Fire Consultants    
  • CDM Advisor – PFB Construction Management Services    
  • Archaeologist – Salford Archaeology 
  • Main contractor: HH Smith & Sons   

Key subcontract packages:   

  • Cladding sub-contractor – Streamline Fibreglass   
  • Floor sub-contractor – Bell Asphalt   
  • Door sub-contractor – Robust UK   
  • M&E sub-contractor – Murray Building Services and Performance Electrical Limited  


The Science and Industry Museum tells the story of where science met industry and the modern world began. Manchester was one of the first global industrial cities, and its epic rise, decline and resurrection has been echoed in countless other cities around the world. The museum's mission is to inspire all its visitors, including future scientists and inventors, with the story of how ideas can change the world, from the industrial revolution to today and beyond.   

The Science and Industry Museum is on the site of Liverpool Road Station, which was the Manchester terminus of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the world's first purpose-built passenger railway. Among its internationally significant buildings are the world's oldest surviving passenger railway station and the world's first railway goods warehouse. In total, there are two Grade I listed buildings and four Grade II listed buildings on the site.  

The Science and Industry Museum is part of the Science Museum Group, a family of museums which also includes the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon; and the Science and Media Museum in Bradford. The Science Museum Group is devoted to the history and contemporary practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media. With five million visitors each year and an unrivalled collection, it is the most significant group of museums of science and innovation worldwide.  


Wellcome exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation.  


Established over 60 years ago in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, grant-making charity which supports causes across the UK and gave over £88 million last year. It has donated well over £1 billion to charities since it was established.  

One of the most respected charitable institutions in the UK, the Weston Family Trustees are descendants of the founder and they take a highly active and hands-on approach. The Foundation's funding comes from an endowment of shares in the family business which includes Twinings, Primark, Kingsmill (all part of Associated British Foods Plc) and Fortnum & Mason, amongst others—a successful model that still endures today; as the businesses have grown, so too have the charitable donations.  

From small community organisations to large national institutions, the Foundation supports a broad range of charities and activities that make a positive impact in the communities in which they work. Around 2,000 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation's grants.