This thesis project, designed with Alex Williams, presents a vision for a devolved northern parliament within a derelict mill building in Manchester city centre. The work aimed to determine a future use for the Medlock Mill by understanding the building’s history. The project began by researching the building through the narratives of four different characters who each engaged with the building at a different period of its history. Through this study we were able to observe trends, such as the gradual transition of power from the building to the people, which suggested the future use. Manchester People’s Parliament continues the power transition that was observed throughout its history; the building that once dominated the people now serves the people.
Our research highlighted the importance the building’s layers of history and we therefore adopted a ‘light touch’ retrofit strategy. The final project involved repairing and retaining much of the existing fabric of the mill, to maintain the character and history of the building, whilst inserting key interventions – such as the rooftop bar and basement-level debating chamber – to accommodate the change of use. These interventions have a simple and harmonious design language to compliment, yet appear distinct from, the existing mill building. The design of Manchester People’s Parliament aspires to redefine the political dynamic in the UK, and explores themes of transparency, representation and interaction, with the aim of making politics more publicly accessible.