Manchester High School for Girls


Manchester High School for Girls

Manchester, UK



Walker Simpson Architects have completed a new Sixth Form College for Manchester High School for Girls. The original school dates back to 1874 when the pioneering Manchester Association for the Promotion of the Education of Women broke down the barriers to women taking university degrees. In 1893, the suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, enrolled her three daughters, Christabel, Sylvia and Adele at the school. The Pankhursts and their Women's Political and Social Union campaigned fiercely for women's right to vote. The colours of their banner - green, white, violet - were a secret code: Give Women Votes.


In 2012, following a design competition, the school commissioned Walker Simpson to develop a dedicated Sixth Form Centre on a restricted plot on the edge of the school overlooking Platt Fields Park. The competition entry proposed a new building which would wrap around the corner of the site to form a new quad and preserve a mature magnolia tree.

The brief, true to the origins of the school, called for a design which would nurture a readiness for Higher Education. Along with a lecture theatre and science suite, the HE feel was applied to the common areas which include a double height entrance space linked to a first floor social area with open access food prep and lunch counter. 

Set over three floors and with a series of small classrooms and study bases, the building avoids becoming a warren through the careful placing of large floor-to-ceiling windows which overlook the quad and offer extensive views towards the park and boating lake.

The building is connected to the existing school via a glass bridge with its massing helping to contain the quad with ground level sightlines to the magnolia tree.

A passive ventilation strategy is used throughout which, combined with generous quantities of natural light, creates a pleasant and calm environment for learning and recreation.

The building has been well received by staff and students and aims to provide accommodation to suit the current population whilst meeting the aspirations of those girls aiming for advanced education in the future.