Manchester Civil Justice Centre

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Civil Justice Centre
Manchester Civil Justice Centre from Bridge Street.jpg
Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Spinningfields
Alternative namesMCJC
General information
Type High-rise Courts
Architectural style Futurist / Expressionist
Location Spinningfields, Manchester, England
Cost£113 million [1]
Roof80 m (260 ft)
Technical details
Floor count17
Floor area35,160 m2 (378,500 sq ft)
Design and construction
Architect Denton Corker Marshall
DeveloperAllied London
Structural engineerMott MacDonald [2]
Main contractorBovis Lend Lease

Manchester Civil Justice Centre is a governmental building in Manchester, England. Completed in 2007, it houses Manchester's county court and the Manchester District Registry of the High Court, the city's family proceedings court, the district probate registry, and the regional and area offices of the Court Service. [3]

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a major city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 534,982 as of 2018. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous urban area, with a population of 2.9 million, and third-most populous metropolitan area, with a population of 3.3 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority for the city is Manchester City Council.

County court

A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more counties, which are administrative divisions within a country, not to be confused with the medieval system of county courts held by the high sheriff of each county.

High Court of Justice one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales

The High Court of Justice in London, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, are the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Its name is abbreviated as EWHC for legal citation purposes.


The Civil Justice Centre was the first major court complex built in Britain since George Edmund Street's Royal Courts of Justice in London completed in 1882. [4] Its distinctive architecture has been nicknamed the "filing cabinet" because of its cantilever floors at the end of the building. [5] The design takes inspiration from Expressionist architecture, as well as the artistic Futurist movement of the 1920s which promotes dynamic lines and a sense of fluid movement.

George Edmund Street English architect

George Edmund Street, also known as G. E. Street, was an English architect, born at Woodford in Essex. Stylistically, Street was a leading practitioner of the Victorian Gothic revival. Though mainly an ecclesiastical architect, he is perhaps best known as the designer of the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London.

Royal Courts of Justice court building in London, England

The Royal Courts of Justice, commonly called the Law Courts, is a court building in London which houses the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. The High Court also sits on circuit and in other major cities. Designed by George Edmund Street, who died before it was completed, it is a large grey stone edifice in the Victorian Gothic style built in the 1870s and opened by Queen Victoria in 1882. It is one of the largest courts in Europe. It is located on Strand within the City of Westminster, near the border with the City of London. It is surrounded by the four Inns of Court, St Clement Danes church, The Australian High Commission, King's College London and the London School of Economics. The nearest London Underground stations are Chancery Lane and Temple.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Commissioned by the former Department for Constitutional Affairs (now the Ministry of Justice), the building was funded as a Public–private partnership and is the centrepiece of the Spinningfields development. The building opened to widespread acclaim for its expressionist dynamism, environmental credentials and high-quality design. It was nominated for RIBA's Stirling Prize in 2007 and named one of the "Best British buildings of the 21st century" by Blueprint magazine in 2011. [6]

Department for Constitutional Affairs

The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) was a United Kingdom government department. Its creation was announced on 12 June 2003 with the intention of replacing the Lord Chancellor's Department. On 28 March 2007 it was announced that the Department for Constitutional Affairs would take control of probation, prisons and prevention of re-offending from the Home Office and be renamed the Ministry of Justice. This took place on 9 May 2007.

Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom) United Kingdom government ministerial department

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is a ministerial department of the British Government headed by the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. The department is also responsible for areas of constitutional policy not transferred in 2010 to the Deputy Prime Minister, human rights law and information rights law across the UK.

Public–private partnership government service or private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies

A public–private partnership is a cooperative arrangement between two or more public and private sectors, typically of a long-term nature. Public–private partnerships are primarily used for infrastructure provision, such as the building and equipping of schools, hospitals, transport systems, and water and sewerage systems. PPPs have been highly controversial as funding tools, largely over concerns that public return on investment is lower than returns for the private funder. PPPs are closely related to concepts such as privatization and the contracting out of government services. The lack of a shared understanding of what a PPP is makes the process of evaluating whether PPPs have been successful complex. Evidence of PPP performance in terms of value for money and efficiency, for example, is mixed and often unavailable. Common themes of PPPs are the sharing of risk and the development of innovation.


The Justice Centre is in Spinningfields, an area west of the city centre which has been regenerated since the 1996 Manchester bombing. The building was required to provide new court space for Greater Manchester. [7] An international competition managed by RIBA Competitions to design a landmark building to complement the development was launched in 2000. The brief required a minimum floor-plate of 300,000 square feet and flexibility as a potential office building. The competition garnered 100 applicants which was whittled down to 49 long-list proposals.

Spinningfields human settlement in United Kingdom

Spinningfields is an area of Manchester city centre, in North West England, developed in the 2000s between Deansgate and the River Irwell by Allied London Properties. The £1.5 billion project consists of twenty new buildings, totalling approximately 430,000 sq metres of commercial, residential and retail space. It takes its name from Spinningfield, a narrow street which ran westwards from Deansgate. In 1968, Spinningfield and the area to the south were turned into Spinningfield Square, an open paved area. The Manchester Civil Justice Centre is a landmark building of the scheme and construction commenced on 1 Spinningfields, a 90-metre office building, in early 2015.

1996 Manchester bombing Terrorist attack

The 1996 Manchester bombing was an attack carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on Saturday 15 June 1996. The IRA detonated a 1,500-kilogram (3,300 lb) Lorry bomb on Corporation Street in the centre of Manchester, England. The biggest bomb detonated in Great Britain since World War II, it targeted the city's infrastructure and economy and caused devastating damage, estimated by insurers at £700 million – only surpassed by the 2001 September 11 attacks and the 1993 Bishopsgate bombing in terms of financial cost.

Greater Manchester County of England

Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county and combined authority area in North West England, with a population of 2.8 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the cities of Manchester and Salford. Greater Manchester was created on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, and designated a functional city region on 1 April 2011.

The competition attracted the attention of major international architecture practices including Foster + Partners, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners and Feilden Clegg Bradley - all of which made it to the last 11 short-list. [8] The three finalists were Richard Rogers Partnership, Pringle Richards Sharratt and Denton Corker Marshall.

Foster + Partners is a British international studio for architecture and integrated design, with headquarters in London. The practice is led by its founder and chairman, Norman Foster, and has constructed many high-profile glass-and-steel buildings.

Kohn Pedersen Fox architectural firm

Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) is an American architecture firm which provides architecture, interior, programming and master planning services for clients in both the public and private sectors. KPF is one of the largest architecture firms in New York City, where it is headquartered.

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, CBE, PPRA is a prominent English architect, particularly noted for several modernist buildings, including London's Waterloo International railway station and the Eden Project in Cornwall. He was President of the Royal Academy from 2004 to 2011. He was chairman of Grimshaw Architects from its foundation to 2019, when he was succeeded by Andrew Whalley. He is a recipient of the RIBA Gold Medal.

In August 2002, the design proposal from Australian architects Denton Corker Marshall with engineers Mott MacDonald was announced as the winner. [9] The practice won the competition for the manner in which they maximised the elongated site, the striking yet practical design, clear zoning of space and value for money. [10]

Engineer Professional practitioner of engineering and its sub classes

Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build and test machines, complex systems, structures and materials to fulfil functional objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety and cost. The word engineer is derived from the Latin words ingeniare and ingenium ("cleverness"). The foundational qualifications of an engineer typically include a four-year bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, or in some jurisdictions, a master's degree in an engineering discipline plus four to six years of peer-reviewed professional practice and passage of engineering board examinations.

Mott MacDonald multidisciplinary consultancy

The Mott MacDonald Group is a consultancy with headquarters in the United Kingdom. It employs 16,000 staff in 150 countries. Mott MacDonald is one of the largest employee-owned companies in the world.

Construction began in 2003, funded by a £160 million public–private partnership deal between developer Allied London and the government. [11] The western side of the 80 metres (260 ft), 17-storey building faces the River Irwell. As of 2017 it is the joint eighth-tallest building in Manchester alongside Manchester One. Its entrance opens onto Bridge Street.

The structure is notable for "fingers" at each end, cantilevered over the lower levels. On the western facade is a 60 metre by 60 metre suspended glass wall which totals 11,000-square-metre (120,000 sq ft) - the largest in Europe. Government and justice departments have a 35-year lease on the building. It was designed so that it could be converted into offices in the case of a lease exchange. [4] On 18 January 2007, during the Kyrill storm, several pieces of aluminium cladding were blown off the building during the construction process - one struck a woman walking along Bridge Street. [12]

The building opened on 24 October 2007, becoming the largest civil court to be constructed in the United Kingdom for more than a century. [13] The building was officially inaugurated on 28 February 2008 by Queen Elizabeth II. [14]



The building is built to BREEAM Excellent rating - the highest level. The elongated form of the building allowed for natural cross-flow ventilation from the prevailing west-to-east facade. The slender plan allows natural light to permeate most areas of the building without the need to resort to electric lighting. Denton said that although buildings can be designed to be energy-efficient, the biggest problem is teaching people to use the building properly. A water source heat pump was used to provide cooling and heating around the building. The architect's intention was to originally siphon water from the River Irwell nearby but upon discovering an aquifer beneath the building, engineers considered this a more reliable option. [15]


The Civil Justice Centre has been well received by architecture critics who have praised its striking aesthetics, environmental credentials and structural quality. The Guardian architecture critic Owen Hatherley described it as a "genuinely striking building". [16] The Telegraph said the "building can be described only in superlatives". [17] The Building Magazine praised the building's "flamboyancy". [18]

Blueprint magazine editor Peter Kelly believed the Civil Justice Centre was symbolic of Manchester's renaissance since the 1996 bombing, describing it as "a civic facility of true excellence, the courts building is regarded as a symbol of the city’s global significance". [19] Blueprint Magazine added:

Architecture critic Deyan Sudjic believed the building was the best new building in Manchester:

RIBA described the structure as "an elegant and beautifully executed response to a complex brief that has made a significant contribution to the regeneration of this part of Manchester." [21]

Manchester Civil Justice Centre at sunset Mcjc .jpg
Manchester Civil Justice Centre at sunset

Ken Shuttleworth of Make Architects and one of the lead architects on The Gherkin in London described the building: "I think it's a fantastic building, I went to see it, I think it's a stunning piece of architecture. I was excited when I saw it, it's a great building." Shuttleworth also stated how interesting it was to see Australian architecture in the United Kingdom. Most buildings use all the site whereas Denton Corker Marshall only used an elongated slither of the plot for the building. [22]


Manchester Civil Justice Centre was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in May 2008. It was originally the overwhelming 8/13 favourite but lost to the Accordia development in Cambridge. [23] [24]

The building has won awards for its sustainability credentials, innovative engineering design and striking architecture. It received a RIBA Award shortly after opening and was short-listed for the 2008 Stirling Prize. [25] Awards won by the MCJC include: [26]

See also

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  1. "Manchester Civil Justice Centre - Project Sheet" (PDF). RIBA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  2. "Manchester Civil Justice Centre (MCJC)". Tata Steel. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  3. "Landmark Civil Court in North West opens for business" (Press release). Her Majesty's Court Service. 22 October 2007. Archived from the original (doc) on 16 February 2008. Retrieved 22 October 2007.
  4. 1 2 Bayley, Stephen (21 October 2007). "What a perfect place to get divorced". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  5. "'The Filing Cabinet'". BBC News. 13 October 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  6. 1 2 "Best British Buildings of the 21st Century – Manchester Civil Justice Centre". Blueprint. 14 January 2011. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  7. "Civil proceedings". 11 September 2006. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  8. "Pioneering PPP bid process for £50m Manchester centre". Architects Journal. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  9. "DCM wins over jury for Manchester law centre". Architects Journal. 15 August 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  10. "Manchester Civil Justice Centre - Design process". CABE. Archived from the original on 18 January 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  11. "Biggest UK court scheme for 130 years goes on site". 2004 Issue 13. Retrieved 2013-02-27.Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. "Storms unleash trail of devastation". Manchester Evening News. 19 January 2007.
  13. "Civil court centre opens in city". BBC News. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  14. "Royal welcome for Queen's visit". BBC News. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  15. "Award winning Manchester Civil Justice Centre a `modest´ building". World Architecture Festival. 22 October 2008. Archived from the original on 28 December 2011.
  16. "New book attacks modern Manchester as 'New Labour boom town' that's lost its cultural edge". Manchester Evening News. 3 November 2010. Archived from the original on 7 November 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  17. "Civil Justice Centre shines in court gloom". The Telegraph. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  18. "Top Drawer". 2007 Issue 8. Retrieved 2013-02-07.Check date values in: |date= (help)
  19. "Denton Corker Marshall's UK top 10 building of the decade". 25 May 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  20. "Northern Light: Denton Corker Marshall's Manchester Civil Justice Centre". The Monthly. February 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  21. "Manchester Civil Justice Centre". Royal Institute of British Architects. Archived from the original on 17 December 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  22. "Ken Shuttleworth hails the Manchester Civil Justice Centre". Building Design. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  23. "Paddy Power makes Manchester Civil Justice Centre favourite for Stirling Prize". Architects Journal. 23 July 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  24. "Stirling betting remains slow, despite major wager on Manchester Civil Justice Centre". Architects Journal. 5 August 2008.
  25. "Civil Justice Centre wins award". BBC News. 28 June 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  26. Mott MacDonald Website - Manchester Civil Justice Centre
  27. RIBA Awards Website Archived 2012-05-05 at the Wayback Machine
  28. "Building Awards: 'This is the most fantastic industry'". 2008 Issue 14. Retrieved 2013-02-27.Check date values in: |date= (help)

Coordinates: 53°28′51″N2°15′09″W / 53.48087°N 2.25247°W / 53.48087; -2.25247