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Jon Matthews Architects design Blackfriars scheme around Grade II listed pub

Winners of Mixology North19’s inaugural Living Project of the Year, Jon Matthew Architect’s Local Blackfriars project is a testament to the growth Salford has seen in the past few years.

10/01/2020 4 min read

Project Team

  • Client


  • Architect and Interior Designer

    Jon Matthews Architects

  • Furniture Provider


  • Flooring

    Tedd Todd, Consentino, Shaw Contract, Pergo

  • Surfaces

    Consentino-Dekton, Silestone, Techrete, Innometal, Casa Ceramica

  • Storage

    Safety Letter Box Company

Over the past decade Salford has seen some major changes, with significant change immediately ahead – and this is still only a taste of what’s to come in the next 10 years. With a population and job boom and an influx of young professionals gravitating towards the area, this once somewhat looked down upon area is having a bit of a renaissance. Reflecting this shift, a number of new developments are now popping up in the area, and on the Salford/Manchester border in particular.

Located on a busy corner in this very area (and a stone’s throw from our own Manchester HQ) is Local Blackfriars – a gated community designed to reinvigorate and reactivate the Black Friar pub. The long-derelict pub, which dates back to at least 1886 and features a variety of carved stone tympanum, including a pair of jolly drinkers, provides a stark contrast from the modern blocks that loom over the Grade II listed building.

We meet with Jon Matthew Architect’s Sam Power, who gives us a tour of the development. Jon set up the practice in 2018 after leaving 5plus, the firm he co-founded in early 2010. Although just a couple of years old, the new studio has a full roster of clients and several central Manchester projects already under its belt.

Inside, the pub is in a transition stage, and has been restored in a contemporary palette, with traditional lime plaster, timber flooring and a listed Jacobean style staircase restored by hand. ‘The building had been in derelict for many years,’ Sam tells us. ‘The pub was brought back from the dead basically – there had been a huge fire in here, there had been a pigeon infestation – it was a real horror show.’

Eventually the space will be reactivated as a working pub, creating a useful amenity for residents and the surrounding community.

The scheme is organised between two blocks, with mirrored lobbies, connected by the communal garden space, and we seem to be in a bit of a calm oasis despite the (typical) Manchester rain and a busy interjunction nearby. The amenities on the ground floor include a laundrette which doubles up as a meeting and workspace, bespoke cinema room and large gym and exercise studio which all overlook the central gardens.

The precast concrete façade of the building is carried into the building and is reflected in its two reception areas, bringing an urban aesthetic inside the lobby. Celebrating natural textures, the concrete is polished to expose the aggregate, giving it a granite appearance. The copper backdrop to the reception desk is particularly beautiful, created bespoke and then treated with a relatively new artisan material; ground down metal is made into a resin and, as a result, can be sprayed onto any substrate, giving the impression of metal but using a fraction of the resource. The furniture and lighting throughout the 351,450 sq ft project was provided by local consultant ByForm, and the sustainably sourced timber flooring was provided by Tedd Todd.

Entering the laundrette/community facility, the concept combines the function of the space with a living room feel, becoming a resident’s lounge. ‘It’s very much like a living or coworking space as well as a laundrette; people set their laptop up and work here regularly. It’s the main space for socialising and working,’ Sam explains.

To counter the stone flooring and surfaces, a lowered timber raft with concealed acoustic material and lighting emphasises the desk as the focal point, with the same materials used for features underneath the desk. The floor and central desk are made from Cosentino-Dekton’s
large format but thin ultra-compacted slabs of stone particles, providing a calm backdrop for working or meeting other residents.

Developer Salboy’s vision was to offer these amenities to residents, partly to keep up with the market but also to provide a great place to live. ‘There were some early trips over to New York when they were first designing the concept for the building, where the PRS model comes from,’ Sam comments. ‘Over there they have loads of amenity, which has been reflected here – there have been no cutbacks in terms of resident amenity. Salboy wanted really great amenity spaces and the brief for the public spaces was very much relaxed high-end hotel.’


Before we reach the apartments we visit the carpark – something that we seldom do when it comes to workspace, but far more relevant here – behind a living wall full of rosemary and tall grasses. The branding throughout the building, also designed by JMA, is refreshingly youthful and modern, and is reflected throughout the carpark, gym and bike room. ‘There are quite a few cyclists in our office and so we created graphics on the wall that represent the mountain passes in the Giro d’Italia race. There’s a lot more emphasis from the council on cycle storage than on car parking spaces – the planning strategy moving forward is less cars in the city.’

The 383 apartments and duplex townhouses of the scheme have coordinated porcelain floor and wall tiles from Cosentino and local manufacturer, Casa Ceramica, with custom-made kitchens featuring quartz work surfaces and back painted glass splashbacks. The scheme’s language of concrete, plaster and sustainably sourced herringbone timber flooring feature heavily in the duplex apartments, and paddle stairs (which are somewhere between a stair and a ladder and not for the faint-hearted) lead us up to a living space with panoramic views of the city. Every detail has been carefully considered within the apartments in what Sam describes as a labour of love – from the wall height doors, the absence of skirting boards and walls that appear to not touch the floor.

The design is successful in its use of architectural detail, material and social sustainability – creating a scheme that is both enticing and appears effortless.

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