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Manchester Central to turn into NHS Nightingale Hospital North West

In the UK national effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, our architecture and engineering teams are helping to convert large event venues into emergency hospitals.

Our Manchester studio has designed the conversion of the Grade II* listed G-MEX conference centre into the NHS Nightingale Hospital North West. The temporary facility will have 663 beds for treating COVID-19 patients.

The venue is part of Manchester Central’s exhibition and conference complex, a former railway station opened in 1880, which closed in 1969 and reopened as an events venue in 1982. The building’s main hall is divided into 18 wards, underneath a 64m wrought-iron single-span arched roof, one of the widest unsupported iron arches in the world.

Working under main contractor, Vinci, BDP collaborated with clinicians, consultants, contractors, Manchester Central and the British Army to meet a two-week deadline for completion, ready for admitting patients on Monday 13 April.

A modular panel cladding system is used to form bed-heads and service corridors. The existing electrical system has been expanded and a large-scale new gas system for providing patients with oxygen has been installed.

Principal Ged Couser said: “We worked closely with clinicians to ensure that every bed can be fitted with all the equipment required to treat COVID-19 patients. Delivering emergency hospital facilities in conference and exhibition centres is unprecedented, so we have been drawing on our previous experience of designing large-scale healthcare facilities in hospitals like Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool.

The biggest challenge on the project has been responding to an evolving brief while delivering the services at the same time, and all within two weeks, from the very start to the project handover. The scale of the task has been absolutely unprecedented, and it has taken an incredible collaborative team effort between the client, the design team, the contractor and the army.”

The ExCeL centre, which BDP helped to repurpose into the NHS Nightingale Hospital London, opened on Friday 3 April. It is the first of several major crisis centres planned around the UK, designed to deal with an expected surge of patients suffering from coronavirus. The NHS Nightingale instruction manual outlines the fit-out strategies and processes adopted by this project.