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National Football Museum
Urbis Olympics.jpg
Urbis from Corporation Street
General information
StatusHome of National Football Museum (since 2012)
TypeExhibition and Museum Centre
Location Cathedral Gardens,
Manchester city centre,
Cost£30 million
Technical details
Structural systemConcrete and glass
Floor count6
Design and construction
Architect Ian Simpson
Architecture firm SimpsonHaugh and Partners

Urbis was an exhibition and museum in Manchester, England, designed by Ian Simpson. The building opened in June 2002 as part of the redevelopment of Exchange Square known as the Millennium Quarter. Urbis was commissioned as a 'Museum of the City' but visitor numbers were lower than expected and a switch was made in 2005-6 to presenting changing exhibitions on popular-culture alongside talks, gigs and special events. Urbis was closed in 2010, after the opportunity arose for Manchester to host the National Football Museum. In 2012, the building re-opened after a complete re-fit as the permanent National Football Museum.

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 in 2017; the Greater Manchester Built-up Area is the United Kingdom's second-most populous, with a population of 2.55 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 is Manchester City Council.

Ian Simpson is an English architect and one of the partners of SimpsonHaugh and Partners, established in 1987 with Rachel Haugh.

National Football Museum Sports museum in Urbis, Manchester

The National Football Museum is England’s national museum of football. It is based in the Urbis building in Manchester city centre, and preserves, conserves and displays important collections of football memorabilia.


Architecture and design

Urbis from Cathedral Gardens. The Urbis Building - geograph.org.uk - 332225.jpg
Urbis from Cathedral Gardens.
Detail of Urbis' roof. The pinnacle is designed to point towards the city centre. The top of Urbis.jpg
Detail of Urbis' roof. The pinnacle is designed to point towards the city centre.

Urbis is a building in Cathedral Gardens, designed by SimpsonHaugh and Partners with consulting engineers Martin Stockley Associates.The building has six storeys and a distinctive sloping form. Visitors were intended to travel to the top floor, accessed by an elevator, to admire the cityscape, then progress down a series of cascading mezzanine floors past exhibits about cities. [1] The fully glazed facades consist of approximately 2,200 glass panes arranged in horizontal strips. [2] The building has an adiabatic cooling system for use in summer and heat recovery system for use in winter increasing its energy efficiency. [3]

Cathedral Gardens

Cathedral Gardens is an open space in Manchester city centre, in North West England. It is bounded by Victoria railway station to the north, Chetham's School of Music to the west, the perimeter of Manchester Cathedral and the Corn Exchange on Fennel Street to the south and Urbis to the east.

SimpsonHaugh and Partners English architecture practice

SimpsonHaugh and Partners is an English architecture practice established in 1987 by Ian Simpson and Rachel Haugh. The practice is based in Manchester with offices in London. In 2014 the practice re-branded as Simpson Haugh & Partners.

Mezzanine intermediate floor between main floors of a building

A mezzanine is, strictly speaking, an intermediate floor in a building which is partly open to the double-height ceilinged floor below, or which does not extend over the whole floorspace of the building. However, the term is often used loosely for the floor above the ground floor, especially where a very high original ground floor has been split horizontally into two floors.


Urbis, a museum and exhibition centre intended to showcase inner-city life, opened on 27 June 2002 as a symbol of regeneration after the IRA's 1996 Manchester bombing. [4] The project attracted £30 million funding from the Millennium Commission and £1 million from Manchester City Council towards the running costs. [5] The exhibition space covered five floors and hosted temporary exhibitions running for between three and five months.

Irish Republican Army Irish republican revolutionary military organisation

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a paramilitary political movement in Ireland in the 20th and the 21st century dedicated to Irish republicanism, the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic from British rule. The original Irish Republican Army formed in 1917 from those Irish Volunteers who did not enlist in the British Army during World War I, members of the Irish Citizen Army and others. Irishmen formerly in the British Army returned to Ireland and fought in the Irish War of Independence. During the Irish War of Independence it was the army of the Irish Republic, declared by Dáil Éireann in 1919. Some Irish people dispute the claims of more recently created organisations that insist that they are the only legitimate descendants of the original IRA, often referred to as the "Old IRA".

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.

Millennium Commission

The Millennium Commission, a United Kingdom public body, was set up to celebrate the turn of the millennium. It used funding raised through the UK National Lottery to assist communities in marking the close of the second millennium and celebrating the start of the third. The body was wound up in 2006.

The museum's first director, Elizabeth Usher, resigned in March 2003 amid criticism that Urbis was not appealing and the exhibits were too abstract. [6] First-year visitor figures fell 58,000 short of its 200,000 target and the Millennium Commission, who provided £20m of funds, threatened to reclaim its money if Manchester City Council had to close it. [7]

Visitors paying a £5 admission fee were unimpressed and few visitors returned, which the management saw as a key problem. [6] By October 2003, visitor numbers were below 200 a day [8] and there was criticism over a £2m annual subsidy from Manchester City Council, [9] The Guardian architecture critic Deyan Sudjic remarked that the exhibits were a "spectacular missed opportunity", [10] although Urbis did garner some praise in other quarters. [11]

<i>The Guardian</i> British national daily newspaper

The Guardian is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as The Manchester Guardian, and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, the Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by the Scott Trust. The trust was created in 1936 to "secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of the Guardian free from commercial or political interference". The trust was converted into a limited company in 2008, with a constitution written so as to maintain for The Guardian the same protections as were built into the structure of the Scott Trust by its creators. Profits are reinvested in journalism rather than distributed to owners or shareholders.

Deyan Sudjic British writer and broadcaster

Deyan Sudjic, is a British writer and broadcaster, specializing in the fields of design and architecture. He is the director of the Design Museum, London.

In an attempt to boost visitor figures, the admission fee was scrapped in December 2003. [12] The plan worked: visitor figures trebled by January 2004 [13] steadily increasing to fivefold by April 2004. [14]

Urbis' chief executive admitted in 2010 that the 'Museum of the City', which ran from 2002 to 2004, "just didn't work". [15] In 2004, a radical decision was taken to rebrand Urbis as an exhibition centre for British popular culture with emphasis on Manchester and no longer called a museum [16] in an attempt to give it a clear identity. With no admission fee, Urbis shook off its white elephant title [17] as visitor numbers rose and over a quarter of visitors came from outside the city. [17]

National Football Museum

Urbis closed in February 2010 for conversion to the National Football Museum. [18] Plans to relocate the National Football Museum from Preston in Lancashire had emerged in 2009. [19] The museum trustees cited long-term funding worries as the reason for relocating to Manchester [20] [ not in citation given ] where 400,000 visitors a year – four times the previous figure – are expected. [19]

Preston City Council, unhappy at the proposals, [21] attempted to thwart the move. The University of Central Lancashire, Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council offered the museum £400,000 per year [22] but were outbid by Manchester City Council's £2 million. [19] Admission is free [23] and a broad advertising campaign will aim to attract visitors to Urbis. [24] In the first 9 months of opening, the museum had already attracted 350,000 visitors. [25]

History of exhibitions and events

The launch night for the D&AD exhibition at Urbis D&AD launch.jpg
The launch night for the D&AD exhibition at Urbis

State of Art: New York from April to September showcased contemporary art in New York. [26] Videogame Nation charted the rise of video games over four decades, how it became a multibillion-pound industry and the Wii and Nintendo DS. [27] The Best of Manchester Awards 2009 celebrated Mancunian culture in 2009. [28] Home Grown: The Story of UK Hip Hop, from October 2009 to February 2010, documented the hip-hop music scene. [29] Manchester, Television & the City: Ghosts of Winter Hill explored the city's television industry, Granada Television, BBC North and programmes created in Manchester. [30] [31] The exhibition coincided with the digital switchover in the region and television's move to MediaCityUK.


The Manchester Zinefest was about independent publishing and zines. [32] How Manga Took Over The World explored how Manga, influenced 21st-century art culture. [33] Reality Hack: Hidden Manchester, atmospheric photographs of Manchester's abandoned recesses by Andrew Brooks and curated by Andy Brydon. [34] [35] Urban Gardening featured gardening in urban environments. [36] Emory Douglas retrospective exhibited the work an artist involved with the Black Panther organisation. [37]

The British Art Show 6 at Urbis Bas6 launch.jpg
The British Art Show 6 at Urbis
The SuperCity exhibition at Urbis Supercity exhibition 1.jpg
The SuperCity exhibition at Urbis

See also

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  4. Houston, Julia (15 June 2006). "From bomb site to style capital". BBC.
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  6. 1 2 "Boss quits ailing Urbis". Manchester Evening News. 3 March 2003.
  7. Ottewell, David (23 July 2003). "Urbis's £20m catch". Manchester Evening News.
  8. Ottewell, David (8 October 2003). "New calls to cut Urbis handouts". Manchester Evening News.
  9. Ward, David (27 October 2003). "New attractions for a new millennium... but can they survive now the honeymoon's over?". The Guardian.
  10. Sudjic, Dejan (4 August 2002). "Where William Morris meets Mills & Boon... and loses". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
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  14. "Urbis visitors increase by 550%". BBC. 12 April 2004.
  15. "Urbis boss 'bitter sweet' over its future in Manchester". BBC. 24 February 2010.
  16. Brown, Mark (24 January 2010). "Urbis sent off: Manchester cultural hub to become football museum". The Guardian. We banned the word museum.
  17. 1 2 Ward, David (11 May 2004). "The white elephant that learned to fly". The Guardian.
  18. Manchester's Urbis closes to become National Football Museum BBC 27 February 2010. Retrieved on 23 April 2010.
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  21. "Anger over football museum move". BBC. 19 November 2009.
  22. "Rival bid on football museum move". BBC. 15 October 2009.
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Coordinates: 53°29′08″N2°14′31″W / 53.48556°N 2.24194°W / 53.48556; -2.24194