A journey into Kampus

It’s only a year until an exciting new neighbourhood will open in Manchester. Combining hundreds of homes with independent businesses and some much-needed green space, KAMPUS will add another spark of life to the heart of the city. We sat down with its co-creators Adam Brady of HBD and Adam Higgins of Capital & Centric to get the low down on what they’re cooking up for Manchester.

“When we set out with KAMPUS we knew it had to be awesome and much more than just another residential development” says Brady looking out over the £250 million construction site. “This was never going to be a bunch of bland, high-rise white boxes. It’s going to be a homegrown neighbourhood which, whether you live there or not, you can come and explore.”

Higgins adds: “We wanted something very different that didn’t look like it’d been dropped from space. The area is packed with history and character and we wanted that, and the people who will call it home, to define what KAMPUS ultimately is. We were lucky that we had a lot to work with. There are some great buildings on site that other developers might have bulldozed, but we were determined to keep them.”

Once the home of Manchester Metropolitan University, KAMPUS is a smorgasbord of history and architecture with two Victorian warehouses, a brutalist 1960s tower and the Bungalow – a disused security cabin on stilts.

“Everyone was telling us to get rid of the 1960s tower, but we were adamant that we should keep that, and the Bungalow,” Higgins says. “Why? Well, you knock those buildings down and what have you got left? Just some more dull, soulless identikit apartments that could be anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been cheaper to knock down the tower and start again but it gives the place character and I actually really love the brutalist architecture.”

Creating the right vision for a site as central as KAMPUS could have been daunting, but the two Adams were determined to deliver something that would do the location justice. Smiling, Brady reminisces to the early days of KAMPUS when he and Higgins would sit drinking late night Amaretto Sours at the Hoxton in London trawling through Pinterest for inspiration.

“There are some great architects in Manchester, but we felt that everything that was going up in the city looked the same. KAMPUS is so central, so high profile, so unique that we were determined to do something different that would stand out. We’re right on the canal, which got us thinking about other places that have nailed canal-side living, so we started googling Dutch architects. That’s how we ended up with Mecanoo.”

He continues: “We wanted to emulate the quirkiness of the buildings on Canal Street next door, which have a really Dutch vibe, and we took inspiration from places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen. We wanted to create a more intimate environment, like European cities where you can be walking down a tiny street and discover a beautiful, hidden square.

Higgins adds: “We also went out to the States but for totally different reasons. At the time no one in the UK was really doing purpose built, single ownership rental schemes so we went to Chicago to see how they do it. The Americans might not be known for their design and architecture, but they do get the nuts and bolts of the service right.”

With over 500 apartments in an eclectic mix of buildings, KAMPUS boasts it has something to suit everyone’s tastes. “Whether you want modern, minimal new build; exposed concrete and waffle ceilings in the 1960s tower; a restored Victorian warehouse with big beautiful windows or a Dutch House in our rooftop village – it’s up to you!”, says Brady.

As well as becoming home to new residents, KAMPUS is set to become a destination neighbourhood in its own right, with a central garden flanked by shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Higgins says: “A lot of new developments are selling an ‘exclusive’ lifestyle but for us it’s always been about making KAMPUS inclusive. Yes, there’ll be a community of over 1,000 people living there, but they’re not going to be living in a bubble. We’re creating a bustling neighbourhood with bars, restaurants, cafes and shops that’ll be open to anyone. And loads of open spaces where you can come and eat your sandwiches at lunchtime, read a book or meet your mates for a beer.”

The brands that will fill those spaces will be as exciting and varied as KAMPUS itself with as many independents and trailblazers as possible.

Brady says: “The commercial and outdoor space will set the tone for KAMPUS, so we’ve been handpicking operators who really understand the eclectic community we’re looking to create. It’s about curating the right mix of events and places for people to hang out, whether that means curious pop-ups at the Bungalow or music and art events in the commercial space.”

But designing a place that celebrates inclusivity wouldn’t be complete without open spaces, and KAMPUS offers just that with a secret garden at its heart.

Higgins says: “We almost wanted to create something post-apocalyptic, with an overgrown garden and towering trees. We loved the idea of bringing greenery back into the city and were inspired by places like the High Line in New York. The garden is hidden away in the centre of KAMPUS so you almost stumble across it. Quite often public space is an afterthought with some cold and harsh granite which might be low maintenance but isn’t creating a space that people want to use. We wanted something much softer and greener where people can chill out – an oasis in the heart of the city.”

Higgins explains how the scheme was also influenced by its neighbours on Canal Street. “The site’s been empty for years and arguably a drag on the Gay Village,” Higgins says. “We’re basically opening up the other side of the canal so when you’re sat having a beer on Canal Street you’ll no longer be looking over some dirty, drab car park but a thriving new neighbourhood.”

Brady added: “We’ve been talking to Canal Street since the beginning to make sure we complement what they have to offer,” Brady adds. “It’s one of the few places in the City where you can sit and have a beer in the sunshine and they’ve really nailed that European vibe.”

So, what is it that’s going to make KAMPUS really special? Brady smiles and says: “It might sound glib, but it’s got it all. Amazing location, beautiful buildings and tons of outdoor space. What more could you want?!”

Higgins sums up: “It’ll be a proper community full of character and diversity and unlike anything else Manchester has to offer.”