Sunday, 6 June 2010


Published in the Traditonal Dwellings and Settlements Review Working Paper Series Volume 203 available from the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments at the University of California at Berkeley

The present economic downturn provides the opportunity to assess the rapid urban regeneration of Manchester during the last twelve years and to place those recent changes in the context of the city’s urban tradition. It also gives a chance to consider how the virtual image of the city has affected the urban narrative. The arguments which are used to support concepts in contemporary urban design are often bent to validate an aesthetic prejudice which invokes the erasure of any element seen as discordant. In the case of Manchester the imposition of a unifying order has been militated against by the variations of the economic cycle and the paradoxical pursuit of laisser-faire urbanism.

The planning process for Manchester has shifted over the last decade between two image-driven poles. Prior to 1996, however, their emphasis was on control, particularly in relation to building heights, the selection of materials and the respecting of historical footprints. The emphasis in planning decisions had been on the image of the nineteenth century city, as a reaction to the disturbances created in the urban fabric by a largely unpopular mid-twentieth century modernism (Canniffe and Jefferies 1999). Since 1996 there has been a volte face, where those same disruptive elements (Piccadilly Plaza, C.I.S Tower, Piccadilly Station Approach etc.) are seen as the model for a confident forward looking city.
The emphasis has shifted to development, to the maximisation of the coverage of a site and therefore of the site value to the developer. This liberal policy has resulted in the occupation of many long vacant building plots and the first dramatic changes to the skyline of the city since the 1960s. In this change of policy the discontinuous nature of Manchester’s urbanism has become exaggerated, with the concentric social pattern first remarked upon by Engels overlaid with a network of smaller centres of affluence encircled by areas of obvious disadvantage.

Familiarity with the processes by which these changes have occurred makes the energetic spectacle of regeneration less than beguiling. In the mid-1990s economic and political conditions had created two competing visions for Manchester. The first was that of the regenerated post-industrial city transformed through the repair of the urban environment into a sustainable city. The second, rather more dramatically, was that of the ruined city, devastated by the 1996 I.R.A. bomb, but ready to seize the commercial opportunity political violence had offered, and to construct an exclusive retail, leisure and residential environment. While the first vision was the official aspiration of the city council, economic realpolitik was to ensure that it was the second vision which was to be fulfilled. In many respects this outcome accords with the city’s genius loci, since Manchester's urban development tradition has been one of short-term economic exploitation with little concern for long-term consequences (Canniffe 2000). There is therefore a certain native inevitability to recent developments, but also a tradition of amelioration of the environment into which the promotion of sustainability was seen to fit. Flexibility of building form, its adaptability and durability, were specifically identified as aids to the creation of a sustainable urban environment, yet would appear to have been abandoned in practice in the reconstruction of the city centre.

The compromised nature of Manchester’s contemporary urban form is a product of regeneration policies which have fluctuated in the last quarter century. Beginning modestly in response to the economic collapse of the early Thatcher years with projects for conversion and reoccupation in abandoned industrial areas, an urban aesthetic was developed, a post industrial interpretation of the post modern which was specific to the city. Following the damage caused by an I.R.A. bomb in June 1996, Manchester’s regeneration accelerated to place it as a frequently cited exemplar of British urban policy, and its identification with traditional urban forms was in turn abandoned. The result has been that, in the city centre, a policy which with varied degrees of success had sought to preserve the character of the 19th century city was turned overnight, as a result of the bomb, into a policy of "boom". Aesthetic concern for the city, in the attempt to defend the integrity of historic buildings, was deemed unrealistic and reactionary. A premium was placed on the novelty of the intervention, in illogical contrast to the sensitive preservation of industrial structures and environments which had been followed previously. Projects developed since that post-bomb period have eviscerated the urban structure of the 19th century city and replaced it with high-rise buildings in an ill-defined groundscape. However it is possible to discern that this fragnmented cityscape has its origins in planning policies which have been pursues with varying degrees of vigour since the end of the Second World War.

1945 and the Reconstruction of the City

The 1945 City of Manchester Plan, prepared by the City Surveyor and Engineer Roland Nicholas, envisaged in the opportunities provided by post-war reconstruction the chance to fulfil ambitions partly implemented prior to 1939. It opposed a negative image of ‘a monumental plan in the grand manner, with showy vistas and processional ways’ with the pragmatic assertion that ‘reconstruction is a gradual process’.
The urban situation following nearly two centuries of industrialisation was widely recognised to be insalubrious, with 60,000 homes declared unfit for human habitation. Regardless of war destruction, housing was a priority, and the ask was expected to require 30 years for completion. Boldly, the Plan declared that ‘it would be a profound sociological mistake’ to import Continental models of workers’ housing. Faith was instead placed in suburban expansion and the garden city already planned (and partially implemented in the 1930s) at Wythenshawe. The Plan recognised that, despite the planned improvement of housing conditions, the major deficiency was in social and communal facilities. Their implementation would be delayed by economic crises but their eventual construction demonstrated the long-term commitment of the civic authorities.
Zoning was proposed as the modern solution to environmental pollution, transport congestion and the creation of a more habitable city. An unsentimental and rational approach to building use was to be the guide to the evisceration of the city fabric that had survived bomb damage. Civic structures were intended to stand in a series of public gardens, the centre being circled by a tree-lined boulevard devoted to increased road traffic. These zoning decisions were themselves dependent on an increase in commuter traffic which in turn would require the compulsory purchase and demolition of existing structures, but often without any clear idea of what should replace them. Open space was thereby created, as was demanded by the Plan, but as a by-product of new road layouts rather than as spaces in their own right.
In contrast to the conservatism of much of the architecture proposed the radicalism of the Plan lay in this morphological transformation. The city as it had developed was now largely regarded as redundant and the inversion of its existing pattern, with an alien emphasis on open space, was to be introduced. A product of the attitudes inculcated during war-time, the provisions of the Plan embodied in architectural form the utilitarian aspects of the Welfare State being implemented in the social sphere during the same period. The flexibility that the Plan advocated has survived its spasmodic implementation on the ground, through the decline of the city’s industrial base to exert an almost unconscious influence on later developments.

1996 and recovery from destruction

The general situation of decline was a disease for which the 1996 IRA bomb damage was decisive in accelerating radical surgery. Whereas the planned response to decay had been to simulate traditional forms of urban growth in a condensed time scale, even more dramatic possibilities could now be considered. Allied to the commercial threat of out of town retail development, the bomb provided the opportunity for the city to reconsider itself in global terms. As a result Manchester city centre was rapidly redeveloped, and the new skeletal concrete forms grew from the rubble there was, however, a brief moment to remember the city's aspirations and analyse where current developments were leading. In its 1997 design guide Manchester City Council promoted a particular vision of its stewardship of the urban environment. In particular, this document focused on sustainability expressed through a diet of familiar physical criteria which were deemed to have somehow lapsed from designers' collective consciousness. A strategy was proposed which simultaneously adopted traditional patterns of urban design and projected an innovative vision of Manchester's place in the world. Of course, Manchester has long had an international reputation for commercial pragmatism regardless of the social and urban consequences. 19th century visitors from continental Europe were shocked. De Tocqueville and Engels remarked on the disastrous social fallout of the early industrial urban experience. Despite this hellish vision, the radical industrialised space of the Manchester mill was exported to Berlin by the Prussian court architect Schinkel and transformed into the beginnings of a new urban vernacular of brick, cast iron and terracotta. More than a century and a half later these processes are reversed and Manchester has to import the latest industrialized building methods in an effort to survive as the commercial centre in the region let alone improve its position in the global economy.
The juxtaposition of these regeneration projects promoted as part of the national policy after the 1998 Rogers report Towards an Urban Renaissance with the remaining industrial context, the later 19th century architecture and organic urban cityscape only adds to the pathos of the simulated central business district which has most recently been created in time for the latest financial crisis.

Many citizens hoped that the much reviled Arndale Centre would need to come down as a result of the bomb. Its then owners, the commercial property company P&O, were reluctant to see any further loss of income and remained determined to maintain the size of their lucrative shopping centre. Marks and Spencers, whose store had taken much of the impact, immediately bought the adjacent plot so that the development of a larger M&S store became the linchpin of any new master plan. Thus commercial interest became the sole determining factor in the redevelopment, a situation that finds few parallels in the tradition of European urban design. In fact the retail sector has grown in size during the intervening twelve years. Designed by the multidisciplinary practice BDP the huge new Marks & Spencer store, the economic lynchpin of the redevelopment, proved to be too large for its struggling owners, but its utilitarian form has enabled its subdivision and part occupancy by Selfridge & Co.

In the masterplan produced as a result of a competition which followed the bomb in the autumn of 1996, and won by EDAW with Ian Simpson. The distant perspective from which the design was developed has produced a scheme in which existing buildings are treated as isolated monuments, their particular geometries (themselves the product of incremental growth within an organic street pattern) being now the basis for vague urban relationships masking the main, economic imperative. The rational strategy of reconnecting pieces of the urban tissue was coupled with the introduction of a new ‘millennium building’ which was predicted to reflect on the rapidly rebuilt city centre. This proposal evolved into Urbis and a building was commissioned from Ian Simpson after a further architectural competition. However this museum of the modern city finds itself in an urban environment which is itself a museum.

While the ostensible function of Urbis is to reveal urban processes, the opacity of the building's form and detachment from its surroundings suggest an alternative reading. Far from acting as a transparent filter between content and context in the tradition of modernism, it stands as a self-sufficient entity which removes the visitors from an authentic and rich urban context, three-dimensional and tangible, and deposits them in a realm of two dimensional simulations. But this disengaged object, trading on the commodification of the urban experience, itself engages with the tradition of Manchester liberalism and the principles of the laisser-faire economy it once pioneered. For this site, in the ‘Old Town” was the focus 160 years ago of Engels’s scathing description of industrial Manchester. The view of the city’s history was thus sanitized for the diners at its exclusive rooftop restaurant which closed at the start of 2007.

An opportunity which had offered the chance to demolish the alien presence of the Arndale Centre instead extended that alien urban form, reducing indigenous urban elements such as the Corn Exchange and St Ann's church to picturesque decoration. Amongst the most bizarre elements of this master plan, however, was the attitude it took to two surviving fragments of the historic city. In the 1960s two pubs, the Wellington Inn and Sinclair's Oyster Bar, were preserved within the centre of the new commercial development of Shambles Square so that they could contribute an element of townscape to this stark new megastructural project. Suffering only minor bomb damage due to their flexible structures, these two pubs have now been dismantled and removed one hundred metres northwards to a vacant site adjacent to the fifteenth century cathedral. This simulation of historical townscape as a ‘new’ medieval quarter thereby conveniently enhances the potential of the redesigned retail quarter.

In this almost virtual city the risks which accompany the taste for attention brought by urban regeneration have perhaps brought no stranger occurrence than the recent admission by the Sony Corporation that Manchester Cathedral features as the backdrop for scenes in the 2007 violent science-fiction computer game “Resistance: Fall of Man”, although they asserted that

“We do not accept that there is any connection between contemporary issues of 21st century Manchester and a work of science fiction in which a fictitious 1950’s Britain is under attack by aliens.”

For a work of fantasy it is curious that the image of the actual cathedral is so carefully realised. While the language of public architecture, often the very symbol by which a city’s identity is fixed, remains the subject of fierce debate, its interpretation appears to develop almost unconsciously. Manchester’s status as a flagship of regeneration had afforded it a role as a scene of alien invasion in a virtual world where risk is unavoidable if not indeed its raison d’etre. What this bizarre instance and the other developments suggest is that Manchester’s urbanism, subject to the city’s pressure to be seen as a success, might only be comprehensible if one regards discontinuity as the ultimate quality of its cityscape.

The schizophrenic split between aspirations and actuality is epitomised by the design of the major new public space, Exchange Square. Initial designs failed to produce appropriate results but in a second attempt the Californian landscape architect Martha Schwartz was selected. Her design signalled the final abandonment of the official policy of sustainability: the space was to be ornamented with the simulation of a riverbed on a site less than 300 metres from the far from romantic River Irwell. Furthermore, Manchester's notoriously damp climate was to be complemented by the provision of shade-giving palm trees, long-term sustainability and maintenance apparently not considered, let alone the significance of this faux Mediterranean plaza for a skeptical and long-suffering population.

At ground level, however, a different urban narrative pervaded the new café society. Here the new instruction from the city fathers was delivered, “Make the right decision. Turn and walk away.” This refers to the unpleasant and unforeseen consequences of another municipal campaign, the promotion of the nighttime economy, the ‘24 hour city’ and the positive attitude to the opening of licensed premises, which accrue in the rise in drink-related street violence which is damaging the expensively wrought image of the reborn city. A city centre management strategy has developed which, rather than create the sustainable environment promised, relies on CCTV to protect the occupants of the new glass prostheses on the urban body, suggesting that the electronically secured city has a more positive future than the contemporary lifestyle promoted in the sales literature.

These are among the results of trickledown urbanism. The highly visible division between these different social groups is not a benign product of the creation of mixed use developments, a picturesque contrast of glitter against dirt. Rather it represents a fault line in the cast list of urban regeneration, between those whose presence and income is desired to make the projects viable and those whose presence is at best to be tolerated as passive spectators. The present social and spatial division is no better illustrated than by the coincidental rise of the Beetham Tower in actual Manchester and the preeminence in virtual Manchester of the television series Shameless produced by Channel 4. Beetham Tower, also designed by Ian Simpson Architects consists of a five star hotel on its lower storeys with apartments above the structure which landed like a jackboot on a small site on Deansgate and prominently visible from miles around due to its height and its setting at the confluence of the Roman road network. Beetham Tower replays the utopian fantasies of early modernism, the glass tower as an expression of urban aspiration and conversely a symbol of dominance over the city.

In total contrast, the virtual Manchester of Shameless created by Paul Abbott presents the life of the white working class substratum of British society in coarse but affectionate terms emphasising the solidarity of a marginalised community and treating its benefit and drug dependency as a matter-of-fact situation with no long term consequences. The comedic potential of the dysfunctional paterfamilias Frank Gallagher (David Threlfall) has been the key to its success, such that his photograph could adorn the construction hoarding for the Beetham Tower during the winter of 2005-06. The success of the series has been marked by extended runs and the relocation of filming from a series of ‘authentic’ if fictionalised locations to a set built in the outer Manchester suburb of Wythenshawe. The irony here is that Wythenshawe, planned as a garden city for Manchester in the 1930s presents many of the same social problems parodied in Shameless, and certainly to Channel 4’s target audience would represent a far from desirable domestic location. Yet it is apparently the perfect location in which to create an artificial simulation of a recognisable location. In terms of the local economy in Wythenshawe, and the nuances which estate agents interpret, this move presents a potential benefit - with the association of television production having a positive effect on house prices and the confusion over the actual location of the ‘Chatsworth’ Estate (a name borrowed with due irony from the ducal stately home in Derbyshire) in a virtual Manchester having no ill effects on an area with a poor public image. Or is it that, from the distance of environments where such decisions are taken, over investment commissioning and scheduling, the fortunes of Wythenshawe as an actual community, are simply beyond consideration?

New Islington

Outside the city centre, in the rather desolate doughnut of inner city margins, more public investment is evident through the attention focused on problematic inner city estates created in the wave of post Second World War slum clearance. As the latest demonstration of this policy, the redevelopment of the Cardroom Estate in East Manchester is intended to remedy the scars of industrial squalour and post-industrial decline. Urban Splash were commissioned as lead developer to deliver a re- invigorated community, with a mixture of social and private housing, between the booming city centre and the Eastlands development initiated on the back of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The masterplan produced by Will Alsop in that year for the rebranded ‘New Islington’ promised a bright future of ‘urban barns’, an extended waterside landscape with a new canal arm, and the trappings of twenty first century city living. The exploitation of a vivid colour palette suggested a slightly forced optimism in the face of the serious problems of the area and the general greyness of the climate. Whatever the more theatrical aspects of the Alsop masterplan the strategy of ‘fingers’ (of accommodation, of landscape and of water) was adaptable to the compartmentalisation of the plan into different packages, with different scales and housing types, and to be produced by different hands. We await the larger architectural components, but the 24 houses produced by FAT at Islington Square and occupied in 2006 announced the rebranding of the area in a concise form where the strong visual language of its diapered surface spoke of urban transformation in a cheerily eclectic slang.

New Islington presents a situation where there is the attempt to accommodate both divergent ends of Manchester’s social divided spectrum. The masterplan for the area required the accommodation of the existing depleted population, but also the attraction of a new aspirational class who would be prepared to endorse Alsop’s aesthetic with their cash. The area will take some years to mature, but the first new developments of social housing, Islington Square by FAT Architects and Guest Street by dMFK, are occupied and Alsop’s CHIPS development of apartments is under construction beginning to fill in the pattern of fingers of occupation specified in the masterplan. A further architectural competition, dubbed ‘Tutti frutti’, is currently being run, and confidently invites participants to invest £200,000 for an empty plot on which to build a terraced house. Only time will tell whether this optimistic not to say economically precarious vision of the harmonious urban future will root in the previously neglected urban environment of the Cardroom Estate.

Against this latter day Potemkinstadt the row of 14 houses at Guest Street produced by London based de Metz Forbes Knight Architects is an altogether more clipped and sober affair. Also developed for the Manchester Methodist Housing Group, the architects had to negotiate the aspirations of their client, the group of residents who will be the ultimate judge and the highly image conscious lead developer (Canniffe and Stone 2007). The architects’ initial predisposition had been towards a ‘defensible space’ courtyard scheme. However, in accordance with the image palette of the New Islington masterplan the terrace was the preferred model, which the architects adapted through the variation of house type and the exploitation of the topography, the narrowing of the site in plan and the slight fall across the length of the plot. This new terrace runs parallel to a surviving row of housing from the Cardroom Estate. As part of the broader landscape strategy the new and existing housing will eventually share a wide communal garden immediately behind the individual back gardens, with their provision for in curtilage parking (a stipulation of the ‘Secure by Design’ strategy produced in liaison with the local police). On the other side, opposite the house fronts and their new street will be a public space bounded by a new canalside block of private housing, another finger of the masterplan. The three parallel blocks, the existing housing, the new terrace of social housing and the future block of privately owned dwellings therefore represent in microcosm the mix of housing which New Islington is intended to achieve when completed. Visual separation of each dwelling from its neighbour is reinforced and articulated by a number of decisions in the stepped plan and their dividing courtyards, but also by the palette of four different brick types, and the contrast with rendered surfaces and variation in the colour of doors and window frames. Even more striking are the juxtapositions of form and scale. In amongst the vastness, detritus and demolition of New Islington the size of this tiny development brings an immediacy to the ambition of the masterplan. The huge upstairs windows gaze defiantly over the high temporary picket fence across the wastelands towards the canal. They are fixed, and treated almost as depictions of windows, square elements of void and reflection which increase the scale. There is little detail, no header, a minimal sill, a painted frame and a massive piece of glass, but it is these brave elements that tell the story about the houses and their aspirations, because the intention is to maximise the quantity of light. The self-effacement and modesty represented by Guest Street suggests a sustainable model, both in terms of the material quality of the building and the urbane commonsense of its simple form. Through the architects’ sensitive use of typology, variation and difference the traditional strength of the terrace and the contextualism it implies is employed for its most important purpose, allowing the residents to make the public face of their homes rather than imposing an image. The strongly defined integrity of the framework provided by dMFK has a bigness about it which indicates a bravado that far exceeds the limits of site and budget. However the reticence of its design might be considered seriously at odds with the general drift of Manchester architecture which has a certain ill-judged showiness, an attraction to spectacle which has begun to affect both the virtual and the actual cities.


This strategy is most evident in the Spinningfields development, sited in the area of the city which had been most directly affected by the 1945 Plan. Crown Square, a civic area of court and municipal buildings has been rebranded as a financial and retail centre by the developer Allied London. The tradition of disconnected structures has been revived, erasing the intervening six undistinguished decades. Key to the recent developments is the model provided by Albert Bridge House, a work of austere modernism which has always provided difficult environmental microclimate conditions for office workers and passers-by. The winds generated might now be funnelled between it and its new neighbour in the Civil Justice Centre, which acts as a backdrop to another product of the post-war era the peculiarly retardataire Crown Court (Leonard C. Howitt 1962).

The architectural history of Manchester is spattered with previous attempts to create business districts which have survived to be regarded subsequently as high points in its urban heritage. The indigenous typological invention of the ‘palazzo’ warehouse formed the sober backdrop to the streetscape of, for example, Princess Street in the mid nineteenth century. Scale and decoration both become more inflated by the time Whitworth Street’s canyon between terracotta facades was formed at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. King Street, the banking district of the city until the early 1990s has a family of many generations of structures from C.R.Cockerell’s Bank of England through to Casson and Conder’s National Westminster Bank. They asserted their integrity (largely) through the articulation of their stone surfaces, rusticated in traditional forms, ribbed and tooled in the modern, occupying their plots from the vantage point provided by high ground floors. The break in this pattern was provided by Lord Esher in King Street with its smoked glass lined public space to the rear, which represented the latest developments in business architecture and indicated the way to the present.

The treatment of the small number of significant examples of architectural heritage reveals the evaporation of civic values in this new development. For example, Lloyd Evans Pritchard’s refurbishment of the original John Rylands Library building has revived the fabric, but the new planning arrangements introduced with the latest ill-advised extension (Austin Smith ; Lord 2007) suck the life out of Basil Champneys’s building. While many may mistake the building’s Deansgate frontage for a church, they all recognise that it is a building of significance and quality. The new entrance in the side extension suggests nothing more than yet another banal retail space, or perhaps a failing department store. While the scholastic gloom of the Rylands Library offers no direct model for contemporary emulation, the quality of its construction and longevity of its use and occupation present a sharp riposte to the disposable buildings and spaces of today. Individuality is reduced to illumination of corporate logos and complexity provided by a gratuitous and hard to occupy plan form.
The new buildings of the area are without any sense of place, and are glumly staid, a small scale vision of the technocratic urban centre fundamentally delineated by Le Corbusier eighty years ago. They stand around the area awkwardly misaligned with each other and unconvincingly heterogenous in their exterior forms, different wrappings around the same sort of functional space. But at least they have a genuine function, unlike the public realm of the area, where the same futile decorative mentality attempts to modify the obvious meaninglessness of the space.

In confirmation of his gestural drift, the largest new civic structure of the development, Denton Corker Marshall’s Civil Justice Centre (2007) presents a series of confusing images. The banality of the building’s organisational diagram, a frontside and a backside, a spine of circulation, presented a degree of self effacing refinement which the architects attempt to overturn by squeezing the floors out as cantilevers. As they slip into the huge structure through an embarrassment of a public entrance what are those involved in the legal process to make of this gymnastic display of potential collapse? The appearance of disintegration is effected to provide the judges with a dining room with a spectacular view, but also a largely enclosed major court room. Such reassuringly utilitarian messages are commonplace in Manchester architecture, so the lack of sentimentality could be thought of as a demonstration of the genius loci of the city, or an appropriation of vacant disregard for reality. Essentially the building represents nothing more than a monument to the bureaucracy of family breakdown, which despite its very expensive efforts is relatively hard to distinguish from the banks and accountancy firms that litter Spinningfields.

The marketing strategy of the city centre residential boom has been transferred to the commercial office sector with the attempt to produce a ‘community’ out of office workers. Not surprisingly economies of scale play their sometimes unacknowledged part. If Manchester’s preference is for residential and office tower townscape the notion of community the package of aspirations which it is offered by Spinningfields represents a particularly impoverished form of generic urbanism. Attention lights on the palette of accumulated brands precisely because the physical environment (buildings and spaces) in which they are contained is so banal and devoid of consolation.

The public spaces are particularly redundant. Recent changes to legislation has dedicated the exterior spaces of workplaces to one prime activity – having a fag. The sleekness of the revolving door, the exquisite unapproachability of the lobby furniture, the curious shallowness of art are as nothing as the nicotine rim of a corporate plaza in suggesting the suppression of individual habits in favour of the company image. Because the spaces have no real use, not the sort of the fluid changes of occupation one would witness in an authentic place. The spaces of Spinningfields are there to provide hierarchy to otherwise largely indistinguishable buildings, to ‘add value’ in the cost per square metre of an address on a square , over one on a boulevard, over one on a …. Space in these situations is part of the commodification of urban property rather than a genuinely public realm.

The spaces created as part of the development are so stupendously formless they can only indicate their eventual occupation by yet more office building. Large patches of lawn suggest future development plots which might give more definition to these late manifestations of s.l.o.a.p. (space left over after planning). Lines of skater-proof benches provide a rhythm of potential occupation, although hard up against the glass elevation of the Civil Justice Centre, they offer little prospect of comfort let alone a view. In Hardman Square the enigmatic forms of polished black stone attempt to provide interest to the yawning space which opens out towards the monuments of early twentieth century Manchester, the rear and stage door of Sir Albert Richardson’s Opera House and the roofscape of Joseph Sunlight’s Sunlight House. This public space complements the essentially private functions of the work place, while the cultural and civic monuments, the Rylands Library, the Crown Court and (perhaps thankfully the new Magistrates’ Court) struggle for a public presence against their new and attention seeking neighbours.

The inevitable arrival of economic stagnation brings a sense of closure to these recent developments. They have introduced often dramatic change into the Mancunian cityscape, but the incompleteness of their resolution, the fragmentary discontinuity their thwarted plans produce is firmly rooted in an urban tradition identified over sixty years ago, where

‘the spirit of materialism and indifference to beauty … has been mainly responsible for the undistinguished appearance of the present city centre.’

Reference list


Eamonn Canniffe and Tom Jefferies, (1999). Manchester Architecture Guide, Manchester Metropolitan
University Faculty of Art and Design.

Eamonn Canniffe, (2006). Urban Ethic: Design in the Contemporary City, London and New York, Routledge.

Tristram Hunt, (2004). Building Jerusalem: the Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Journal Articles:

Eamonn Canniffe, (2000). Tabula Rasa as Tradition: Rebuilding Manchester Again, Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, Volume 131, 26-33.

Eamonn Canniffe and Sally Stone, (2007). Building Study: de Metz Forbes Knight’s Guest Street Scheme in New Islington, Manchester, The Architects’ Journal, No 18 Vol 225, 25-37.

1 comment:

Ashtonian said...

Look Mummy, I'm an architect!

Great article best read to Malvina Reynolds song!

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