Oxford Road station is described in the Pevsner architectural guide as one of the most remarkable and unusual stations of the 1960s. Despite being a key part of Manchester’s architectural heritage, its dramatic timber shell roof, which anticipates Sydney Opera House, has become hidden from view of the city by surrounding buildings. With the station site located at the intersection of the knowledge and cultural corridors that are key to the city council’s vision for the city, Fletcher Priest was invited to do a feasibility study for the site. The proposal opens up new connections to the city and a vista along the axis of the station roof to the Waterhouse Clock Tower, giving the station a civic presence and restoring the heritage of this important corner of the city.
Commissioned by Network Rail and Manchester City Council, the proposal will transform the station into an efficient, modern transport interchange that will be a major gateway to metropolitan Manchester with facilities for its expanded use. Based on a detailed analysis of the existing station and the surrounding area, the proposal includes two new entrances, increases the station’s visibility from the street and decongests operations by doubling the usable area of the station.
By building above a disused track, the concourse area of the station will be doubled, with access to platforms easier and free from congestion. Two new prominent entrances redefine the station’s position at the crossroads of the culture and knowledge corridors on Whitworth Street and Oxford Road and connect to western and southern approaches. A funicular lift will allow better access, and could be the opportunity for a contemporary engineering structure that would be an attraction in its own right.
The proposal includes four new buildings that follow the urban grain of the area and provide new commercial, residential and hotel space. Arranged and scaled to allow flexibility in phasing and funding, they provide routes to the surrounding area, and connect to First Street, the dynamic new urban quarter for which Fletcher Priest has also designed the masterplan.
Reusing the listed railway viaduct structures, the new buildings include a 60 unit residential development and a 140 room hotel on Whitworth St West. The listed arches will be restored and, with improved landscaping and tree planting, the street – which is currently underused – will become a thriving location for shopping and leisure.
A new office building featuring a digital artwork that could be commissioned in collaboration with Manchester cultural organisations, will replace the existing Cornerhouse building at 70 Oxford Road. The commission will acknowledge the importance of the site as a cultural landmark for the city, and emphasise the site as the gateway to the creative district. The the new James Leigh Building will strengthen the coherence of Oxford Road townscape and echo the massing of Alfred Waterhouse’s Refuge Assurance across the road.