Chinese Arts Centre

OMI Architects, Manchester, 2003


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Front facade 

Dennis Gilbert / VIEW     Download Original

  • Front facade    
  • Entrance    
  • The centre’s reception and shop on Thomas Street is a fusion of the Chinese, the Modern and the Victorian market building    
  • The finely crafted tea house with its individual pots and specially designed furniture    
  • The corridor from reception through to the gallery    
  • The gallery, in one of its many lighting options    
  • The stair down to the education level    
  • The lobby to the education room    
  • An artist in the studio on the street front, with a ladder to the sleeping platform    
  • Traditional gates lead to the undivided education room, with a shrine to the right    
  • The gallery in use as a cinema    
  • An exhibition in the gallery    
  • The gallery as a venue for dragon dancing during a workshop    
  • Site plan    
  • Basement plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • Section CC    
  • Section FF    

Reworking of a Grade II-listed Victorian fish market building into a centre for contemporary Chinese arts, including a gallery, shop, tea house, artist studio and education facilities

The facility occupies the basement and ground floor of the grade II listed former Smithfield Market Building in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

The centre caters for a diverse range of activities and includes a gallery, shop and tea house, an artist’s studio and sleeping area, resource centre and education/conference room. Flexibility of use is an important aspect in the project, the gallery ceiling contains 120 computer-controlled light fittings, allowing for many different lighting conditions, including use as a cinema.

Natural materials, often rich in colour, are drawn from Chinese cultural influences and are juxtaposed against the white plane minimalism of their surroundings.

The black zinc spine wall is a reference to the dark grey brickwork of Northern China; the walnut used within the café refers to the tea stained wood found in traditional Chinese Tea Houses; the main entrance is set behind a specially commissioned sliding screen of Chinese characters and the entrance sequence is influenced by the 'hutong' courtyard typologies found in mainland China.


  • Begun: Jun 2003
  • Completed: Nov 2003
  • Floor area: 570m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £824,000
  • Funding: Arts Council England lottery grant
  • Tender date: Apr 2003
  • Procurement: JCT Intermediate Form of Contract 1998
  • Address: Market Buildings, 13 Thomas Street, Manchester, M4 1EU, United Kingdom

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