Engineering Futures

Architect, Paul Owen, describes how the delivery of the 76,000 m² Manchester Engineering Campus Development is transforming the way future engineers are educated in response to the rapidly changing global economy.

At 76,000 m² the Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) is one of the biggest university buildings in Europe, with a student and staff population of over 8,000. It aims to transform the way in which future engineers are educated, supporting excellence in research, teaching and learning.  

The new development brings the University’s four engineering schools and two research institutes together; combining these activities on one campus renews the sense of community, encourages greater collaboration and provides an exciting and inspiring place to work. We undertook a comprehensive stakeholder review process using a range of visualisation tools – the Revit model was developed to show a level of detail and coordinated information from other designers to allow us share accurate ‘live’ information, review finishes proposals and interior design packages.

The main MEC Hall building is constructed of an in-situ concrete frame and flat slab with a large 10.8metre grid expressed as a series of repeating modules within the unitised façade which allows the size and types of space to be adapted over the life of the building.

A dedicated maker space on the ground floor hosts dynamic workshops for students and academics to share ideas and innovate, and doubles as an events space where students display their learning facing onto the main ‘street’ which is open to all. This open street space stretches 180 metres along the east side of the building, connecting with workshops and labs, visually linking learning and practical spaces and is filled with the buzz of hundreds of students working together or socialising.


Cutting-edge technologies enable students to engage with new modes of teaching as part of the ‘global classroom’. A variety of loose-fit labs, alongside bespoke, specialist spaces such as Extra High Voltage and Characterisation Suites, and new teaching spaces such as the Blended Dry Lab are fitted with benches which integrate the services and allow for easy reconfiguration whilst linking to an adjoining lecture theatre. The pioneering blended lecture theatres combine teaching with practical study by means of a movable partition screen, allowing the theoretical to be taught before moving to the hands-on experience. 

“MECD is a manifestation in building form of what a socially responsible University should be – transparent, open to our communities, and focused on sharing knowledge and practice.”

Professor April McMahon
Vice-President Teaching, Learning and Students

Unrivalled in scale in the UK as a hub of engineering and material science expertise, the development combines Manchester’s heritage as the birthplace of the industrial revolution with world class facilities; whether aerospace or AI, climate change or clean water, MECD can help solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.