The group of buildings at 121-137 High Street Mall are collectively known as the Manning Buildings, constructed in 1902 and designed in the Federation Free Classical style. Whilst the ground floor tenancies have been used for retail interests, the first floor has been unused since 1936. The brief was to reactivate these first floor spaces to create an attractive base building envelope for potential commercial tenants which provided all the requirements and services demanded of contemporary commercial fitouts and to restore the existing historic fabric.
With consideration of the existing building arrangement, buildability and access during the construction process, the impact on existing tenants, services and compliance requirements, the overarching approach saw the insertion of a new services and circulation core in the heart of the project.
With the main entrance to be via Manning Arcade, it was proposed that two existing retail tenancies be amalgamated to create one larger tenancy which was more public in nature i.e. a cafe and gallery space. This pivotal circulation point aids easy identification of the main access to the first floor - assisting way-finding whilst providing desirable amenities to the surrounding tenants.
The staircase becomes an architectural feature of the space with a large double volume void connecting the two levels and allowing the mixed uses to interact and support each other.
The new central structure houses brand new toilet facilities and a lift shaft, with full height glazing bringing natural light into the interior and utilising colourful louvres to shade direct sunlight from the west.
The commercial space on the first floor was designed to allow flexible future occupation, whether leased to one tenant or many smaller tenants. New openings between the party walls create clear circulation routes with an industrial-like articulation of these openings with exposed steel lintels and beams.