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National Football Museum
Urbis from Corporation Street
General information
Status Home of National Football Museum (since 2012)
Type Exhibition and Museum Centre
Location Cathedral Gardens,
Manchester city centre,
Opening 2002
Cost £30 million
Technical details
Structural system Concrete & glass
Floor count 6
Design and construction
Architect Ian Simpson
Architecture firm SimpsonHaugh and Partners

Urbis was an exhibition and museum in Manchester, England, designed by Ian Simpson. The building opened in June 2002 as part of the redevelopment of Exchange Square known as the Millennium Quarter. Urbis was commissioned as a 'Museum of the City' but this failed and a switch was made to changing exhibits on popular-culture alongside talks, gigs and special events. Urbis still failed to attract sufficient footfall to justify its heavy subsidy and closed in 2010. In 2012, the building re-opened after a complete re-fit as the permanent National Football Museum, which is also in receipt of subsidy from the City.


  • Architecture and design 1
  • History 2
    • National Football Museum 2.1
  • History of exhibitions and events 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Architecture and design

Urbis from Cathedral Gardens.
Detail of Urbis' roof. The pinnacle is designed to point towards the city centre.

Urbis is a building in Cathedral Gardens, designed by SimpsonHaugh and Partners with consulting engineers Martin Stockley Associates.The building has six storeys and a distinctive sloping form. Visitors were intended to travel to the top floor, accessed by an elevator, to admire the cityscape, then progress down a series of cascading mezzanine floors past exhibits about cities.[1] The fully glazed facades consist of approximately 2,200 glass panes arranged in horizontal strips.[2] The building has an adiabatic cooling system for use in summer and heat recovery system for use in winter increasing its energy efficiency.[3]


Urbis, a museum and exhibition centre intended to showcase inner-city life, opened on 27 June 2002 as a symbol of regeneration after the IRA's1996 Manchester bombing.[4] The project attracted £30 million funding from the Millennium Commission and £1 million from Manchester City Council towards the running costs.[5] The exhibition space covered five floors and hosted temporary exhibitions running for between three and five months.

The museum's first director, Elizabeth Usher, resigned in March 2003 amid criticism that Urbis was not appealing and the exhibits were too abstract.[6] First-year visitor figures fell 58,000 short of its 200,000 target and the Millennium Commission, who provided £20m of funds, threatened to reclaim its money if Manchester City Council had to close it.[7]

Visitors paying a £5 admission fee were unimpressed and few visitors returned, which the management saw as a key problem.[6] By October 2003, visitor numbers were below 200 a day[8] and there was criticism over a £2m annual subsidy from Manchester City Council,[9] The Guardian architecture critic Deyan Sudjic remarked that the exhibits were a "spectacular missed opportunity",[10] although Urbis did garner some praise in other quarters.[11]

In an attempt to boost visitor figures, the admission fee was scrapped in December 2003.[12] The plan worked: visitor figures trebled by January 2004[13] steadily increasing to fivefold by April 2004.[14]

Urbis' chief executive admitted in 2010 that the 'Museum of the City', which ran from 2002 to 2004, "just didn't work".[15] In 2004, a radical decision was taken to rebrand Urbis as an exhibition centre for British popular culture with emphasis on Manchester and no longer called a museum[16] in an attempt to give it a clear identity. With no admission fee, Urbis shook off its white elephant title[17] as visitor numbers rose and over a quarter of visitors came from outside the city.[17]

National Football Museum

Urbis closed in February 2010 for conversion to the National Football Museum.[18] Plans to relocate the National Football Museum from Preston in Lancashire had emerged in 2009.[19] The museum trustees cited long-term funding worries as the reason for relocating to Manchester[20] where 400,000 visitors a year – four times the previous figure – are expected.[19]

Preston City Council, unhappy at the proposals,[21] attempted to thwart the move. The University of Central Lancashire, Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council offered the museum £400,000 per year[22] but were outbid by Manchester City Council's £2 million.[19] Admission is free[23] and a broad advertising campaign will aim to attract visitors to Urbis.[24] In the first 9 months of opening, the museum had already attracted 350,000 visitors.[25]

History of exhibitions and events

The launch night for the D&AD exhibition at Urbis

State of Art: New York from April to September showcased contemporary art in New York.[26] Videogame Nation charted the rise of video games over four decades, how it became a multi-billion pound industry and the Wii and Nintendo DS.[27] The Best of Manchester Awards 2009 celebrated Mancunian culture in 2009.[28] Home Grown: The Story of UK Hip Hop, from October 2009 to February 2010, documented the hip-hop music scene.[29] Manchester, Television & the City: Ghosts of Winter Hill explored the city's television industry, Granada Television, BBC North and programmes created in Manchester.[30][31] The exhibition coincided with the digital switchover in the region and television's move to MediaCityUK.


The Manchester Zinefest was about independent publishing and

  • Urbis Archive - history of exhibitions at Urbis

External links

  1. ^ "Urbis Manchester" (PDF). Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  2. ^  
  3. ^ "Urbis Manchester". Menerga Cooling. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Houston, Julia (15 June 2006). "From bomb site to style capital". BBC. 
  5. ^ "Museum of the modern city opens". BBC. 27 June 2002. 
  6. ^ a b "Boss quits ailing Urbis". Manchester Evening News. 3 March 2003. 
  7. ^ Ottewell, David (23 July 2003). "Urbis's £20m catch". Manchester Evening News. 
  8. ^ Ottewell, David (8 October 2003). "New calls to cut Urbis handouts". Manchester Evening News. 
  9. ^ Ward, David (27 October 2003). "New attractions for a new millennium... but can they survive now the honeymoon's over?". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ Sudjic, Dejan (4 August 2002). "Where William Morris meets Mills & Boon... and loses". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Redding, Scott (20 October 2003). "Why I love... Urbis, the museum of urban life". The Guardian. 
  12. ^ "Museum drops entry fee". BBC. 27 December 2003. 
  13. ^ "Visitors flock to fee-free Urbis". Manchester Evening News. 9 January 2004. 
  14. ^ "Urbis visitors increase by 550%". BBC. 12 April 2004. 
  15. ^ "Urbis boss 'bitter sweet' over its future in Manchester". BBC. 24 February 2010. 
  16. ^ Brown, Mark (24 January 2010). "Urbis sent off: Manchester cultural hub to become football museum". The Guardian. We banned the word museum. 
  17. ^ a b Ward, David (11 May 2004). "The white elephant that learned to fly". The Guardian. 
  18. ^ Manchester's Urbis closes to become National Football Museum BBC 27 February 2010. Retrieved on 23 April 2010.
  19. ^ a b c "National Football Museum to move to Urbis".   Retrieved on 21 December 2009.
  20. ^ "'"Football museum 'needs more cash. BBC. 23 January 2007. 
  21. ^ "Anger over football museum move". BBC. 19 November 2009. 
  22. ^ "Rival bid on football museum move". BBC. 15 October 2009. 
  23. ^ "No late kick-off: Football museum will overcome funding cuts to open on time in Urbis". Manchester Evening News. 6 January 2011. 
  24. ^ "Brazen PR plays ball with National Football Museum". Manchester Evening News. 4 July 2011. 
  25. ^ "Back of the net: National Football Museum smashes targets for visitors". Manchester Evening News. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  26. ^ "State of the Art: New York", Urbis, retrieved 15 July 2011 
  27. ^ "Videogame Nation", Urbis, retrieved 15 July 2011 
  28. ^ "Best of Manchester Awards 2009", Urbis, retrieved 15 July 2011 
  29. ^ "Home Grown: The Story of UK Hip Hop", Urbis, retrieved 15 July 2011 
  30. ^ "Manchester, Television & the City: Ghosts of Winter Hill", Urbis, retrieved 15 July 2011 
  31. ^ "Manchester on TV: Ghosts of Winter Hill". BBC. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2011. 
  32. ^ Vaughan, Megan (28 August 2008). "Going underground at Manchester Zinefest".  
  33. ^ "How Manga Took Over the World", Urbis Archive, retrieved 27 October 2012 
  34. ^ "Hacking into Manchester". BBC Manchester. 20 November 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  35. ^ "Behind reality". BBC Manchester. November 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  36. ^ "Urban Gardening", Urbis Archive, retrieved 27 October 2012 
  37. ^ "Black Panther: Emory Douglas and the art of revolution". Urbis Archive. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  38. ^ "city til i die". Urbis. Retrieved 14 July 2011. 
  39. ^ "Urbis pays homage to City fans". Manchester Evening News. 17 April 2007. 
  40. ^ Worsley, Giles (19 January 2005). "Shaping the future". Daily Telegraph. 


See also

  • Architecture by Stealth
  • Compost Cities
  • Ill Communication
  • Taxi!
  • Heliodays in the rainy city
  • Manchester 24
  • DTroit
  • The Sounds of Two Cities
  • Futuresonic04
  • The Peter Saville Show
  • Rock 'n' Roll Icons: the photography of Mick Rock
  • Punk: Sex, Seditionaries and the Sex Pistols
  • SuperCity[40]
The SuperCity exhibition at Urbis
  • Under Surveillance
  • British Art Show 6
  • Little Black Dress
  • D&AD: The Best Advertising Design in the World
  • Manchester 0161: This is what we're made of
  • The China Show
  • Make Me Shine
The British Art Show 6 at Urbis
  • The Haçienda 25 The Exhibition: Fac 491
  • D&AD Exhibition: The Best Design and Advertising in the World
  • Catapult 07
  • Arrivals & Departures: New Art Perspectives of Hong Kong
  • PLAY: Experience the Adventure of Our Cities
  • City 'til I Die?[38][39]
  • Best of Manchester


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