Posted Jan 31 2023 | By Victoria Turner

Our Manchester studio is ten: a potted history

...aka LB, Manchester and me (and other things happening in the world)!

Levitt Bernstein’s Manchester studio is ten years old, and this birthday marks a fantastic moment in the history of our practice. The connection with the city of Manchester began in the 1970s with our very first arts project, the Royal Exchange Theatre. It took a while, but more than 35 years later, we opened a studio here to place a permanent root and presence in the North West. It has gone from strength to strength. In a moment of personal reflection, I’ve put together a short timeline of pertinent events.

-37 years…
Levitt Bernstein’s Royal Exchange Theatre is born to great critical acclaim and our first RIBA award. So begins the start of a long-term relationship with the theatre company and this city.

  • In the news: the Apple Computer Company is formed; the first commercial Concorde flight takes place; Joy Division is formed; ‘Rocky’ is released; the best-selling album is The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’.

-27 years…
A teenage me visits my local theatre (the RET) very often. I attended many great productions and it turns into a regular family meeting spot. This place is a major influence on my future career choice!

  • In the news: Mad Cow Disease; Chernobyl; the M25 is completed; perestroika; ‘Top Gun’ is released; the best-selling album is Madonna’s ‘True Blue’.

-20 years…
I apply for a Part 1 position at Levitt Bernstein in London. I get it and spend a year at the practice. Good friends were made. I love it!

  • In the news: the Bosnian War; Beanie Babies are launched; Intel introduces the Pentium Processor; ‘Jurassic Park’ is released; the best-selling album is Whitney Huston’s ‘The Bodyguard’.

-17 years…
The IRA Manchester bomb explodes and the RET shakes. I start my Part 2 position at Levitt Bernstein, and we set about refurbishing the theatre. I have to pinch myself that I am actually working on this project. I qualify as an architect and stay at LB for eight years

  • In the news: Dolly the sheep is cloned; eBay is created; the first DVDs are released; Deep Blue defeats Gary Kasparov; ‘Trainspotting’ is released; the best-selling album is Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’.

-8 years…
I relocate ‘back home’ from London and join a Manchester-based practice. I develop an expertise in school sector projects.

  • In the news: Tony Blair is elected for a third term; YouTube is founded; the UK implements The Civil Partnership Act; ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is released; the best-selling album is Coldplay’s ‘X&Y’.

-1 year…
A serendipitous coffee; a seed of an idea; time for a new adventure; a presentation to the Directors of LB… the Manchester studio is a go!

  • In the news: Barack Obama is re-elected; The Queen’s diamond jubilee; "Curiosity Rover" lands on Mars; Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, dies; 'Marvel's The Avengers' is released; the best-selling album is Adele’s ‘21’.

Our Manchester studio: years one to two
Staff grows from two to three. We are located in the corner of a shared office on Canal Street. We deliver No.1 Hardman Street in Spinningfields. Our first school project is won: a junior school and communal hub for Withington Girls’ School – an excellent start for this new work sector.

  • In the news: Scotland votes to remain part of the United Kingdom; Robin Williams dies; Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’ is 12 weeks at number one; ‘John Wick’ is released; the best-selling album is One Direction’s ‘Midnight Memories’.

Our Manchester studio: years three to five
Staff grows from three to ten (+ one baby!). We relocate to Old Granada Studios. School sector work grows with four big commissions around the UK. Local specialist housing projects blossom with The Courtyards in Preston and Broughton House Military Veterans’ Care Home in Salford. Notable successful Manchester planning applications include the London Road Fire Station and Old Granada Studios… we design our way out of the building!

  • In the news: Britain votes to leave the European Union; Donald Trump wins U.S. Presidency; David Bowie dies; ‘La La Land’ is released; the best-selling album is Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’.

Our Manchester studio: years six to nine
Staff grows from ten to 20 (+ six babies!). We relocate to the Bonded Warehouse. Our North West housing projects boom with Manox, Tamworth Estate, Tabley Lane, Central Street, Linley Road and Miller Road. More schools become clients. We now even venture to the Channel Islands!

Lockdown and home working starts – thank goodness for IT and amazing resilience by everyone to keep things going. Our urban design and landscape team grows here with Cheshire and Cumbrian sites on the drawing board. I’m invited to become a board Director (absolutely thrilled). We have a dedicated and loyal Manchester troupe; the senior team is promoted, and talented Part 2s become fully qualified architects. There’s a studio obsession with making 3D-printed model making!

  • In the news: a global pandemic; Brexit; a Platinum jubilee; a Prime Minister who lasts 49 days; a State Funeral; a Russian invasion; a ‘cost of living’ crisis; "Dune" is released; the best-selling album is Adele’s ‘30’.

Our Manchester studio: ten years on
And now we are ten – let’s take a moment to celebrate!

What a thrill it has been. A giant leap, but one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Hard work, long hours, a fabulous team, and so proud of what we’ve all achieved. Here’s to the next decade…

We’ll be organising a series of events and initiatives over the year to celebrate this milestone. Watch this space!