74 recently designed the ground floor amenity spaces at the new build-to-rent residential scheme 'The Green Rooms' in MediaCityUK, Salford, for Amro Living. The series of spaces, with fantastic views out from all angles, includes a lobby and reception, lounge and co-working area, gym, meeting rooms, and gallery.
Built on the rich artistic, inventive histories of Salford and Manchester, MediaCityUK is a major international hub for technology, innovation, and creativity. The conurbation is home to the BBC, ITV, dock10, and Kellogg's, as well as over 250 smaller media and digital businesses, independent bars, restaurants, and boutique shops.
"Responding to the future growth of MediaCityUK was a key part of our strategic thinking on this project," 74 Founder David Holt commented. "With over £1billion currently invested in the neighbourhood and plans for it to double in size to 7.7 hectares - including 1,800 private sale and BTR apartments and townhouses and 55,000 sq m of additional office space - it really is 'hot property' right now. We were delighted to be involved with Amro Living on this project, helping to profile and target the development's future users with a stand-out suite of amenities."
The Green Rooms, by AHR Architects, is made up of 238 stylish 1, 2, and 3-bedroom apartments, with enviable views of the waterfront and Manchester's iconic skyline. 74's aim for the amenity design was to create a vibrant space that reflected the style, elegance, and charm of the surrounding urban landscape and would be inspired by the arts and the people who would use it. The practice undertook a building analysis during the final stages of the base build to ensure each space within the ground floor amenity space would be used to its full potential.
Site analysis revealed the particular desirability of the location - not only because of its waterside siting, but for its proximity to Imperial War Museum North, The Lowry Theatre, MediaCityUK itself and its great transport connections, from Manchester's Metrolink system to good train and bus links and ample local parking.
With MediaCityUK's existing appeal to technology, media and arts professionals, the site was judged to be attractive to other demographic groups too, including students at Salford University, young families, those working at different types of businesses who would also enjoy the benefits of the location and older single people looking for a good quality of life and the added buzz of community life. The amenities also needed to be attractive to non-residents, including local businesses wanting to use flexible spaces for meetings or events. Analysis of other local offerings in the area was also undertaken to ensure the new scheme's singularity and differentiation.
The urban landscape fed into the design narrative by reflecting local building forms, patterns and lighting, and interpreting this into furniture, fittings, and finishes. Major influences included the preponderance of monolithic structures and sweeping curves; bold forms, shapes, and patterns; reflections from the abundant glazing and the water of the River Irwell; contemporary and organic shapes with neon hues, warm lighting, and futuristic lighting shapes and the use of industrial-style materials such as steel paneling and mesh cladding.
The emotional feel of a space that would speak to several different domestic aesthetics was also important, with this feel was defined as sophisticated and strongly linked to the neighborhood and the local community, creating a relaxing and hospitable sanctuary feel, as well as being inviting, inspirational and collaborative, for those seeking to use the amenity spaces together with other people.
"We distilled all of these influences into our design concept," Holt explained, "so that the amenity spaces feature a contemporary materiality, whose linearity reflects local architectural language, together with a softening of those clean lines via organic shapes and texture from woven patterns and perforation, as well as the tactility of rugs and throws. Furniture features colourful, bold and bright colourways, with a slightly harder edge through the use of brushed steel and metallic detailing. Health and wellbeing is promoted throughout by careful application of biophilic principles."
The 515 sq m ground floor amenity space includes four main areas with individual zones within those, so that the full offer encompasses: reception and lobby space; shared workspace; lounge and quiet working area; postboxes; parcel store for residents; gym and shower rooms; fitness studio; staff offices; snug; flexible event space and a booking meeting room or private dining facility.
The large lobby area at the building's main entrance is a warm, vibrant and welcoming space, featuring a reception desk and lounge space with a waiting area, postboxes and as a co-working and shared workspace to the right-hand side, serviced by a dry bar. On the opposite side of the circulation corridor is further lounge space and post boxes, as well as a quiet work zone. A strong feature of the lobby is the 16m x 5m monumental mural across the entire rear wall of the space, created by art studio Aster Muro, together with students from the Manchester School of Art (MSA). The mural is a unique element of the scheme and, because of the building's vast glass frontage, effectively also a public piece of art visible to and appreciably by those walking past on their way into MediaCity and the BBC's offices. The fresco was created by artist Charles Snell of Aster Muro in an intense five-day time period in June 2020, assisted by four foundation students from the MSA, who had completed a training placement at the Aster Muro studio in The Wye Valley earlier in the year.
"Our foundation students were provided with a fabulous opportunity to work on an industry-based brief alongside Aster Muro. Throughout the project, the students were presented with an invaluable experience and were able to observe the technical, complex processes of a highly skilled professional artist at work," Benjamin Greenhalgh, Lecturer in Foundation Art and Design at MSA commented.
The lobby fresco uses a powerful palette of pale mint, sage, teals, forest green, and rust orange. Pigmented plaster was applied to sub-layers of wet lime-based plaster, then layers of colors were worked on with spatulas, and built up with spray and by hand, in a performative and expressive installation. In addition to this fresco, Aster Muro created a smaller fresco with a softer, more organic palette in the multi-purpose Gallery space to the rear of the ground floor amenities, overlooking the waterfront. Both frescoes were inspired by different aspects of sanctuary and reflection.
Directly beyond the large lobby area on the left is the gym, which features a combination of industrial design-inspired elements, including black metal fixtures and raw plaster with a light timber flooring, gentle lighting, and planting. The space also has a strong branding and kinetic graphic design element. A shower room is located opposite the gym, alongside the scheme's cycle store.
Towards the rear of the ground floor is the second set of amenity spaces, including a combined waiting area and public-facing lettings office for The Green Rooms. Although a more visibly landlord-run space, it was important to link the design of this area to the rest of the scheme and so it features rugs and throws, stylish storage, timber flooring, and a strong joinery and lighting presence.
The gallery area covers the remaining rear ground floor space, with a number of distinct and other more seamless zones. The separate spaces are the fitness studio, bookable meeting room or private dining room, snug and flexible smaller space, whilst the central area makes up the main flexible events space with lounge seating zones within it.
Photography: Gu Shi Yin