Museum of Science and Industry


Museum of Science and Industry




MOSI Gates: where the modern world begins

In 2013, the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), part of the Science Museum Group, commissioned a Public Realm Study from Walker Simpson Architects. The museum site had become cluttered through various interventions so a simple design principle was established; to strip down and pare back in order to reveal the site in its original pre-20th century industrial form.

Following the Study, MOSI invited Walker Simpson to replace the museum entrance gates and the principle of revealing the site was applied to the project. The design emerged from a collaboration between Walker Simpson and Peter Saville who have worked together previously at the Manchester International Festival and with Transport for Greater Manchester. A proposal was developed which consisted of sheets of clear glass with a distinctive diagonal translucent banding, set in hot rolled steel sections on a graded apron of salvaged granite setts.

The introduction of large glass panels significantly improves the impact of the museum at street level, connecting it to the city and visually opening up the site. The sharply defined borders of each panel help to frame key views; the steel skeleton of the travelling gantry adjacent to the Power Hall and, beyond, the delicate gable of the Grade 1 Listed 1830 Warehouse.

The diagonal stripe cutting through the panels has a strong affinity with Manchester: three diagonal lines feature in Manchester's coat of arms representing the city's three rivers, the Irk, the Medlock and the Irwell. At Factory Records, Ben Kelly and Peter Saville appropriated the diagonal as an industrial hazard sign on to the dancefloor at the Hacienda.

At MOSI, the diagonal returns to the site where the modern world begins. This time not as a heraldic motif, industrial sign or symbol of PopArt but, set on reflective glass frames, as a multi-layered reference to all these aspects of Manchester's history. The gates introduce this country's most internationally significant site and city: the birthplace of the world's first machine age and starting point for the way we live today.