The Bartlett School of Architecture


New South Asia Gallery for Manchester Museum Co-Designed by Bartlett Associate Professor

26 October 2023

The Bartlett’s Chee-Kit Lai has co-designed the South Asia Gallery in Manchester with his practice Mobile Studio Architects, as part of a collaborative consortium.

Image: Visitors looking at displays in a low-lit room at the South Asia Gallery, Manchester Museum. Photograph by Gareth Gardner

The South Asia Gallery at Manchester Museum, a British Museum partnership gallery, is the first permanent gallery in the UK to celebrate the lived experiences and contributions of the South Asian diaspora. The South Asia Gallery is part of Manchester Museum’s £15m redevelopment. 

Studio C102, led by Kyriakos Katsaros, and Mobile Studio Architects, led by The Bartlett’s Chee-Kit Lai, won the commission to design the gallery in 2020 and formed a consortium. Manijeh Verghese was then appointed to lead on interpretation, storytelling and visitor experience. 

The new 372-sqm gallery showcases over 140 historic artefacts from the collections of the Manchester Museum, British Museum and their partner institutions, alongside new contemporary commissions and personal belongings loaned by the Collective. The gallery presents a range of personal stories that explore what it means to be South Asian. 

Kyriakos Katsaros, Studio C102, and Chee-Kit Lai, Mobile Studio Architects, said: 

Designing the South Asia has been a truly collaborative process. Through engaging the Collective throughout the process and working closely with Manchester Museum and the British Museum as well as the rest of the design team, we were able to create a space that works alongside the rich tapestry of emotional stories and the diverse array of historic and contemporary objects to bring South Asian culture to life.”

Studio C102 was founded by Kyriakos Katsaros in 2013 and is based in Dalston, East London. The studio works on the principle that good design should be accessible to everyone and not just limited to the few. Studio C102’s recently completed projects include the fit-out for a new gallery in Deptford for architectural photographer Gareth Gardner. 

Mobile Studio Architects was founded by Chee-Kit Lai in 2010 and is also based in Dalston, East London. The studio has extensive experience in the design of exhibitions, with a portfolio of academic and public engagement shows. Mobile Studio Architects was awarded The ARUP Prize for Emerging Talent in Architecture, at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2016.

Manijeh Verghese is a designer and curator who works on independent curatorial projects. She was co-curator of The Garden of Privatised Delights – the British Pavilion at the 17th International Venice Architecture Biennale. She is the Head of Public Engagement at the Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture, where she organises lectures, exhibitions and other special projects for a range of audiences. 

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Image: The South Asia Gallery, Manchester Museum. Photograph by Gareth Gardner