What GROW needed was a space to call its own. A space that showed personality, warmth, inclusivity, a space that inspired creativity and conversation.
And at the back of the North Atrium of the Business School we found that space. At the time it was the unloved Business Café. Grey, lifeless and in need of an injection of passion.
So we set about transforming the area, but as we have sustainability as one of our key cornerstones, we didn’t want to just go out and buy new things.
We wanted to breathe new life into the space by finding things across campus we could use and upcycle, we wanted to add colour with plants and fresh herbs, and we wanted our students and local independent businesses to be involved too.
So we set about gathering what we could.
The chairs in GROW are one of the first things that people notice. Bright and colourful, they stand out against the building’s grey aesthetic.
They have become known as our Rainbow Chairs (Although Haleh calls them ‘Rainbow Unicorn Inclusivity Chairs’ for short 😂).
The chairs themselves were actually saved from the scrapheap. Having spent decades in the Council Chamber in the Ormond Building, they had been earmarked for removal as the University embarked on a transformation project for the building.
With the help of David Leathlean, lecturer in Visual Merchandising, and Up Manchester, they have been upcycled, transformed and given a new lease of life.
They have been painted in University brand colours, recovered in fabric that was found in an ‘ends bin’ after an afternoon scouring a factory shop, and re-cushioned with a dark grey to fit with the building.
We are delighted how much people have taken to them. Staff and students alike now have favourites they sit on, and it is a joy to see people going for their favourite colours.
We wanted the tables to not only look good, but be good quality and not feel like they were out of a classroom. We wanted them to be upcycled, but we also wanted them to complement the space and the chairs.
We then found Marsh Mill Interiors, an independent business set up by Leona after she left the Higher Education sector. Because she understands that climate change is an important issue, all her products are made using reclaimed wood, saving timber that could otherwise go to landfill.
All of our tables have been made from repurposed scaffolding. Each one has its own uniqueness, with some still sporting paint from their days on the building site.
To finish the tables off, steel legs were chosen to compliment the building’s robust use of exposed concrete.