MMU Hollins Building
'The Toast Rack'
The Brutalist design of Hollings Campus has made it one of the most recognisable and iconic buildings in Manchester ever since its construction in 1960. Initially it was opened as The Domestic Trades College and later became a part of Manchester Polytechnic and later Manchester metropolitan University. The Hollings Campus closed in 2013. It became lovingly known as 'The Toast Rack' due to its distinctive form and reflected its use as a catering college. The building was renovated in 1994 and the refectory was upgraded and consequently lost it's name of 'The Fried Egg' due to it's shape.
I photographed the building in April 2022. The contents have long been stripped out and all that remained was an empty shell, emphasising further the truly brutalist nature of the design.
The buildings, making up the MMU’s Hollings Campus in the otherwise leafy Victorian Fallowfield, were designed in 1958 by the City Architect L. C. Howitt who was also responsible for re-modelling the interior of Manchester Free Trade Hall after the original was destroyed in WWII, and designing the majestic Crown Courts in Crown Square. Its distinctive shape – a giant Toblerone triangle with parabolic concrete arches on top that gives it the look of a great big Toast Rack – gives the building its ‘pop’ appeal, and that well known nickname indicates the enormous affection that not only former students but the city at large has come to have for this little piece of space age design in the suburbs.
As would be expected from an architect of Howitt’s calibre, it comes as no surprise to discover that there is also much practicality behind the cute loveable shape. The tapering shape provided different sized teaching spaces for small or large classes, the tailoring workshops were kept separate to minimise noise from the sewing machines, and “The Fried Egg” – a low round building with a circular hall intended for catwalk shows – housed the library and two refectories.
Deservedly, this gem of a building received English Heritage listing Grade II status in 1998, in keeping with its status as one of the best designs of its era and one of the city’s most cherished buildings; a testimony to a great architect and reflecting the optimism and ingenuity of the late 50’s.
English Heritage described the structure as; "a distinctive and memorable building which demonstrates this architect's love of structural gymnastics in a dramatic way".
The architecture critic Nikolaus Pevsner described the building as "a perfect piece of pop architecture". To some, the building symbolises the ideals of the Festival of Britain and architectural positivity following the Second World War.
The building's structure consists of a concrete frame with a brick infill on the bottom half of each storey. The building is seven storeys high and its hyperbolic paraboloid frame continues on the exterior, hence the toast rack comparison. Although the building's unorthodox form is playful, its tapering shape also helps to divide space into varying sizes for larger and smaller classes. A semi-circular restaurant block is attached to the west and is informally known as the "Poached Egg".
Manchester Metropolitan University left their Hollings campus in 2013 as they consolidated their facilities towards the city centre. The building was then put up for sale, being bought by developers for £4,000,000 in 2014. There are plans to redevelop the building with flats, a leisure centre and a rooftop garden.