stylish multi-purpose boutique hotels seem to be a dime a dozen down in london, but up here in manchester i’ve really struggled to come across a venue that rivals the likes of the capital’s ace, hoxton or citizenm. then along came whitworth locke.
opened late last year, whitworth locke has become one of my favourite places to hang out in the city and i can’t believe it’s taken this long for me to share a full post on the space! designed by new york city based architecture practice grzywinski+pons, whitworth locke is a 160 room aparthotel with beautiful bar, cafe, lounge and co-working space on the ground floor that has been specifically created to cater not just to the hotel’s occupants, but us manchester natives too.
led by principal architects matthew grzywinski and amador pons, the hotel is described as an “adaptive reuse project” since the work comprised of a complete gut renovation, addition and comprehensive fit out of three existing linked buildings in the city centre, at the junction of princess and whitworth streets, next to the rochdale canal. it’s an ideal location, a short walk from both oxford road and piccadilly stations, and a great base location from which to explore the city.
the buildings all had heritage value as former textile warehouses and it was important for grzywinski+pons that their alterations helped preserve and celebrate the richness of the historic 19th century buildings, paying particular attention to the thresholds into the building and the dialogue between their interventions and the beauty of the victorian blocks. in my opinion, they’ve pulled that marriage off perfectly!
this commission had special resonance for us as the beautiful former textile warehouses and showroom were highly reminiscent of some of the earliest work we did designing interventions to 19th century masonry buildings — functional and stylistic contemporaries to these mancunian structures — in our native new york city. the proportions, materials, textures and quality of light we inherited felt a bit like home and demanded to be exalted. ~ grzywinski+pons
the atrium was once a road that ran between the three buildings that now make up the hotel; dominion house, johnson house, and central house, the only building in manchester designed in the scottish baronial style and complete with turrets. it’s now been laid with granite block pavers and covered over with a spectacular glass ceiling that creates a grand vestibule entrance way into the hotel and houses a long ‘winter garden’ conservatory bar and the hotel reception area.
i love the juxtaposition of the vast modern expanse of glass with the solid bones of the building’s victorian fabric, and the striking colour palette they’ve used. based upon a shade grzywinski+pons found to be tonally close to that of manchester skies, this inky grey tone is offset with a vibrant mix of yellows and greens, inspired by the design team’s research into vintage visual communications that promoted the commercial industrial links connecting historical manchester to far-flung (read warmer, brighter) corners of the globe. that link is probably lost on most people visiting the space, but the bright colour pops feel fresh and contemporary, adding a warm, playful vibe to the communal areas which i find very inviting.
for me the greatest strength of whitworth locke within the local community is its coworking lounge. i’ve spent plenty of time here since the hotel opened, and love the relaxed atmosphere and fantastic array of work zones on offer. it’s great place for informal meetings as there are so many little corners that can be utilised to create the feeling of (semi) privacy, and you won’t find yourself badgered by roving staff eager for you to order more food and drink to justify your presence.
that said, the food and coffee on offer are also fantastic. foundation coffee house are arguably one of the most popular coffee shops in the city, and their original northern quarter joint is always packed and buzzing throughout the workday. owned and operated by manchester creative studio nochintz, creativity is at the heart of the fdn philosophy and their drive for original, authentic and unique customer experiences make them a symbiotic partner for the whitworth locke venture. their second outpost within the hotel feels like a far less frenetic space than it’s northern quarter counterpart, but still exudes the same playful and creative vibe. happily the coffee is also just as good, although service can be frustratingly just as slow.
upstairs there are 160 studios and suites in a variety of shapes and sizes, designed to cater to everyone from overnight city dwellers, to week-long tourists, to longer-term visitors staying in the city wanting self-catering facilities (in the form of high-end galley kitchens) for a home-from-home vibe. when i attended the launch party last year i was lucky enough to be given a tour of a few of the rooms and my, oh my, if i was visiting manchester this is the place i’d book to stay, no matter how long i was in town!
original features have been preserved wherever possible, from the original mill windows to the roughly textured brick walls, and the colourful retro palette from downstairs has been tempered to what i’d describe as a ‘sugared almond’ scheme. there are salmon pink walls and dusky pink tiles juxtaposed with that inky manchester blue, and upholstery in a surprisingly fetching pistachio green. there’s also another nod to the hotel’s canal-side setting in the headboards that have been designed in the same style as a canal boat’s deck, with contrasting blue upholstered panels to reflect the (ofttimes murky) waters below.
i’ve not had the chance to experience the accommodation firsthand yet – although i would love to book a staycation here soon! – but from a purely aesthetic point of view i think the space is a winner. i’ve also not stayed at any of the other locke hotels yet, but both leman locke in london and eden locke in edinburgh exude the same kind of contemporary design vibes and look to be fantastic options to consider next time i visit those cities.
have you ever stayed in a locke hotel? i’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
whitworth locke, 74 princess street, manchester m1 6jd
all photography by nicolas worley © grzywinski+pons, used with permission.