There is much variety in the building materials used in Albert Square. Stone, brick, terracotta and slate are used extensively. These solid traditional materials are preferred, in new developments, to large expanses of cladding, concrete and glass.
Generally buildings on the eastern side of the Square are built of yellow stone whilst those on the west side, opposite the Town Hall, are finished in red brick. This helps to emphasise the civic importance of the Town Hall.
The civic route, proposed in the 1945 plan, between the Town Hall and the Law Courts was largely unrealised, but it did emphasize the principal characteristic of the conservation area, namely the view looking east along Brazennose Street which focuses on the dominant tower of the Town Hall, framed by commercial buildings on either side.
The re-paving of Albert Square with grey granite setts was a major factor in changing the character of the Square, restoring its appearance to something like the original. With the removal of traffic from the front of the Town Hall, the square ceased to be a traffic island and a large area was opened up for exclusively pedestrian use.
Like much of Albert Square, Brazennose Street has been closed to vehicular traffic, but in contrast the paving is brick with concrete flags laid out in a rectilinear pattern. Although historic buildings remain in narrow side streets, none fronts Brazennose Street itself.
A pedestrian walk traversing part of the conservation area, from Mulberry Street to John Dalton Street, has been brightened up by the use of incidental sculpture fixed to the walls of the alleyway and by resurfacing the pavement. This route extends beyond the boundary of the conservation area and has the potential for linking Victoria Station with Albert Square - the 'Victoria/Albert' connection.
The architectural emphasis of corners is a characteristic of Manchester buildings which contributes to the urban design character of the city centre. It is evident in the Albert Square area and its use in new developments will therefore be encouraged.
Street lighting in the Square takes the form of multiple light fittings supported by cast iron columns with foliated decoration around their bases. The use of fewer and more powerful lamps has assisted in the reduction of clutter in the Square.
Signs and canopies are kept to a minimum, and where they do occur they are carefully designed so as not to compete with or conceal the architectural details of buildings.