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NoChintz delivers an adaptable, flexible design that speaks to our times, at Affinity Living’s latest Manchester residential project, Riverview.
Denton Corker Marshall
NoChintz; Hay, Muuto, Menu, Pedrali
Diespeker, Corian, Egger, Kvadrat
NoChintz; Flos, Foscarini, Muuto
Words: Harry McKinley
Photography: Laura Hutchinson
Though Manchester has often been touted as a place of grey skies and bolshie musicians, today it is more accurately described as a city of glass and millennials. Its skyline, once relatively ground-hugging, is now punctuated with towering silver splinters that brush the clouds and reflect the surrounding clusters of cranes – evidence of yet more glass and yet more steel to come.
As one of the fastest growing cities in the UK and one of the most rapidly expanding tech hubs in Europe, much of Manchester’s building boom is residential: those gleaming high-rises set to house, or already housing, young urbanites keen to take advantage of the city’s buoyant employment market, competitive rents and electric social scene.
With four buildings across the city centre, Affinity Living is one of the most prodigious BTR (build-to-rent) operators; its polished, community-centric offer targeted at the mobile mid-twenties and up.
The latest to open, Riverview, sits on the banks of the Irwell and Affinity tapped local studio NoChintz for the design of the extensive communal space.
“The scheme is grounded within the landscape of the city,” NoChintz’s Head of Design, Katie Lea, explains. “It pays homage to the river, which was once the lifeblood of the city. The space then, like the river, is a story of connectivity, industry and leisure.”
Indeed, in function, it is the embodiment of all three: a co- working space, a locally-founded coffee and cake hangout and a cinema snug; a neat encapsulation of the work, play and stay ethos of the Affinity Living generation.
In the main thoroughfare, comfortable, yawning sofas in neutral tones threaten to swallow lunchbreak residents – stylistically enlivened with Hem cushions in bright colours and soft patterns. Rugs from Studio Knot are bespoke and intended to evoke the rolling sediment of the nearby river. A long, glossy, laptop-beckoning table is flanked by dramatic lighting from Flos and Tom Dixon. A statement tree with wraparound seating marks a focal point by the main doors – a grand nod to nature, along with the assorted, wellness-centric pot plants.
Although a commercial project, the choice of brands feels unashamedly consumer; lavish even. These are, after all, expensive pieces and materials for a vaguely-public space, but their use conveys a deeper message: that this building is a home, even if populated entirely by renters, many of whom will pass through only transiently.
Strips of light-filtering Kvadrat fabric gently zone the space, the main drag giving way to Loaf Mcr, a coffeeshop that specialises in pricey loaf cakes laden with Instagram-friendly toppings. It isn’t just a coffeeshop, though – as the rails of aggressively pink merchandise attest – but an increasingly cult brand, one that feels keenly aligned to the residents above and those Affinity Living wants to ensnare.
“The concept is ultimately about flexibility and autonomy,” Lea continues, “about balancing residential and hospitality needs, which create a welcoming and enticing space for residents. It’s all about allowing residents to get out of their apartment and feel a social connection with neighbours.”
It’s arguably onwards, in the compact ‘living room’, that the sense of community-building is most directly realised. A snug with wide sofas and a large projector screen is sectioned off with a heavy curtain – bookable for film nights or Netflix afternoons with larger groups. It’s a nook to be shared with neighbours or, for those in pocket sized apartments, for hosting visiting friends.
“The project is perfectly positioned to respond, adapt and cater to the current needs of society,” says Lea, who recognises that as city centre living space becomes increasingly squeezed, it’s important to offer more opportunities for tenants to extend outwards, as well as to facilitate human interaction.
The notion of blurring the private, communal and even the public within the confines of one towering residential eco-system speaks to our times, and in particular to a demographic that eschews traditional working practices and embraces a more cluttered model, where the lines between on-the-clock and off; between home and away; and between necessity and lifestyle, are hazy.
Is this all part of an immediately post-pandemic pivot that will soon shift back towards the traditional, or a sign of sustained things to come? Well, for NoChintz, part of developing the design for Riverview was also considering its longevity. There are a healthy few years baked into the interiors, with furnishings and decorative elements intended to last. But, equally, in the living room for example, very few elements are fixed. In short, most can be whipped out at a moment’s notice should the space need to function differently or be, somehow, reoriented. A testament to the fact that if flexibility and adaptability are central to how spaces today are used, they must also be central to how they’re designed.
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