ARA were runners-up in this open international competition to design a major new exhibition gallery for the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester. The gallery will be used to show travelling and temporary exhibitions, and the chosen site is under the arches of the world’s first passenger railway station, with significant access challenges. The museum is a globally important heritage site with some of the key buildings of the modern industrial age. A still-functioning early railway engine uses the tracks as a museum exhibit.
Marx’s phrase ‘all that is solid melts into air’ was coined in response to the ferment of Manchester in the period that these buildings were built. Artists like JMW Turner were also struck by the impact of new technologies: the painting ‘Rain Steam & Speed’ shows a train and its passengers apparently hurtling out of a maelstrom, where there is no distinction between earth and sky. We wanted to communicate the shock of these experiences to museum visitors today, by placing the entrance hall to the new galleries under a glass roof beneath the railway. The 19th century train would seemingly fly over their heads on specially supported tracks. Inspired by the Land Art of Michael Heizer, this new subterranean entrance hall is reached by cutting a strip into the surface of the museum courtyard like an archeological dig, making space for a ramp. The galleries then flow naturally under the joined arches from this top-lit space.
Museum of Science and Industry