Casper Mueller Kneer Architects

The Cotton House, Manchester

Sitting at the edge of the Northern Quarter, next to Piccadilly train station, the Cotton House is the conversion of a grade II listed warehouse into a major gastronomic enterprise in the heart of Manchester. The industrial scale of the building is particularly impressive with ceiling heights of over 6m, cast iron columns with 2m circumference and exposed brick walls more than 1m thick.

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The design concept is based on two main ideas:
1. to retain as much as possible of the character of the existing space, especially with regards to its industrial heritage
2. to insert a single architectural element around which the entire scheme revolves

The ‘house with the house’ the core intervention and conservation strategy. As a large scale structure it occupies and hovers above the main space, organising the entire scheme. It defines all main areas, provides locations for bars on two levels, accommodates all back-of-house functions and embraces a private lounge on the second level. The ‘House in the House’ creates different ‘quarters’ or ‘atmospheric units’, a type of interior urbanism. Its black envelope has a diagonal pattern that plays with varying degrees of sheen: an internal façade.

The ‘Soft Enclosure’ partitions the main dining room into smaller units of personal space. 120m of fabric have been wrapped into large scale folds, producing an intimate yet visually accessible spatial field. The fabric is mounted on track to accommodate changing scenarios.

“The Cotton House, one of the most brilliantly designed and exciting restaurants I’ve visited in a long time.” Tracey MacLeod, The Independent Magazine

Nominated for ‘THEME’ Award for ‘Best Interior Design’, 2005

Client: The Old London Warehouse Ltd, Manchester
Gross Floor Area: 830m2

Architects: Mueller Kneer Associates / Olaf Kneer, Marianne Mueller
Olaf Kneer, Marianne Mueller, Yacira Blanco

Structural Engineers: Alan J Cozens Consulting Engineers, Lancashire
M+E Engineers: Abbey Plumbing, Blackpool
Acoustic Consultant: ACIA, Manchester
Main Contractor: Bridgewater Contracts, Manchester
Photography: Rolant Dafis