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Square metres of new space


year original building built


value in billions of masterplan

The University of Manchester - Schuster Annexe

Schuster extension the latest to benefit from University’s £1 billion ten-year Campus Masterplan

Manchester University used both Willmott Dixon and Scape for the first time to access our team of university campus specialists for a major extension to its Schuster Building.

The university wanted our team for the following reasons:

  • Extensive track-record for working on university campuses
  • Knowledge of working in live campus environments
  • Local team based in Manchester

Schuster external 3.jpg

The new extension at Schuster

The four-storey building provides 2,500 sq m of space on the corner of Upper Brook Street and Brunswick Street and is connected to the existing Schuster Building with a metal bridge. It is part of the first phase of the University’s masterplan and makes the university a world leader in STEM technology.

Big plans

The Schuster Building is home to the School of Physics and Astronomy and our new annexe on the eastern side provides space to grow the school and take in more undergraduate and postgraduate students.

By extending the building rather than build a new facility, it also allows students and academics from across the department to collaborate better with colleagues based in the new section.

It is part of the university’s £1 billion Campus Masterplan, which aims to unite all the departments on a single state-of-the-art campus by 2022.

Thriving new hub

At the heart of our new extension is the Ideas Mill, an innovative learning space for collaborative teaching and learning. The Ideas Mill will also extend the outreach activities of the department and provide a venue for schools and industry.

The centrepiece is a design representing the Voroni Diagram in the glazing. The diagram is created through fritting on four layers of glass with patterning on both sides of the third layer. We had to work hard to get the percentage of fritting right by understanding different viewpoints as well as taking into account the angle of the sunlight. We also fitted it behind a blank spandrel to hide the frame.

Access challenges

Access was very challenging to the site. We only had access to one elevation due to the project abutting a main road. So, we devised a solution to build from the back out, carrying materials through the building and could only work from mast-climbers over a footpath because the existing building was lower than what we were creating.

Noise and vibration could have impacted specific experiments in physics labs. This risk was mitigated with a monitoring strategy and holding piling until key experiments were concluded.

Illustrious history

The Schuster Building was built in 1967 as one of the final structures of the University’s Science Quadrangle. Its illustrious history includes the ‘supermaterial’ graphene being first isolated in its laboratories in 2004 by Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov.

This latest expansion will enable the department to cater for the growing interest in physics and other STEM subjects following a significant increase in applications to the School of Physics and Astronomy in recent years.

By upgrading the facilities and focusing on creating spaces to develop these skills, the department aims to make its students even more attractive to potential employers.

Professor Martin Schröder, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences:

“The Schuster Annexe development continues the university’s drive to invest in new core facilities to improve teaching and learning for our students. It will enhance the skills and employability of our students and extend our outreach capabilities.”


  • University uses Scape framework for first time
  • Willmott Dixon's first project for University of Manchester
  • Experience of working in live environments important
  • Enhances university's STEM facilities




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