Designing the Future of the Past

In October 2004 the Manchester Letherium Corporation (MLC) issued an open invitation for submissions to its ML:IDEAS Competition. The aim of the competition was to solicit design propositions for a revitalised Manchester Letherium, and was open to architects, designers, artists and interested citizens alike.

The competition is now closed. Submissions to the ML:IDEAS competition may be viewed on our Finalists pages.

ML:IDEAS competition site in central Manchester


Our Mission

  The MLC wishes to provoke and invoke further interest - both cultural and financial - in a radically new kind of collecting institution, one dedicated to the housing of de-accessioned objects from cultural and heritage sites in the U.K. Objects, artefacts, and archives acquired through the auspices of the MLC are to be housed in a new purpose-built structure whose experimental programme will support highly innovative approaches to aesthetic, scientific, and historical research.

The new facility - to be known as 'Manchester Letherium' (ML)- is based literally and philosophically on the grounds of a 19th century institutional predecessor, The Manchester Municipal Letherium (see History section for more information).

Launching the competition, Steering Committee Chair Howard Michaels said: "We are dedicated to raising the profile and plight of one of Manchester's greatest lost treasures. In doing so, we hope to save other treasures from the same fate."1



  Competition judges were instructed to evaluate entries using a broad range of criteria. Winners of the the competition were asked to provide design schemes that addressed two main objectives:

A. Innovative use of site and programmatic requirements.
The proposed site for the competition (at the corner of Whitworth and Princess Streets in central Manchester) is one that is rich in the Manchester Letherium's own institutional history, and was chosen as such. However, applicants are encouraged to look beyond the boundaries of the site if they feel that their proposal would benefit from such an action. As well, the proposed use for the facility is one which is open to re-interpretation and translation. Improvements, deletions, and alterations to the programme, provided they make a case for a cohesive scheme, will be permitted.

B. Challenging and innovative architectural propositions.
It should be understood that, as an Ideas Competition, the MLC is seeking radical interpretations of its project. Applicants are encouraged to think beyond the boundaries of the traditional museum storage, display case and gallery "white cube" paradigms.


1. Howard Michaels, From the speech given at the ML centenary celebration "100 Years to Remember", 1997, Palace Hotel, Manchester.

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