Saturday, 18 August 2012

On the demolition of THE CENOTAPH

Dear Sirs

I write concerning the proposed demolition and relocation of the Cenotaph in St. Peter's Square, Manchester and the consequent negative impact on this important public space.

My objections are twofold, both to the proposed demolition and to the proposed resiting. 

Firstly the position of the Cenotaph, an important piece of design in its own right, was clearly intended to give the monument added significance beyond St. Peter's Square, appearing prominently in vistas along Mosley Street and Lower Mosley Street, Oxford Street and Peter Street. It is also an important feature in the unfolding public pedestrian route of Library Walk, a unique piece of Manchester's townscape which is threatened by another similarly ill-advised proposal. The placing of the Cenotaph and its subsequent embellishment was intended to dignify the civic realm of a city which had been badly affected by the two World Wars and sought to turn those tragedies to public good through a commemorative space. Despite the encroachment of tram lines and platforms this important piece of urban spatial composition survives, and the relationship between the Cenotaph and the nearly contemporaneous Central Library is salvageable. The proposed removal suggests that this history is now regarded as a public embarrassment, and is better tidied away to a less prominent location.

Proposals for the initial St. Peter's Square design competition simply relocated the platforms and canopies so the original relationship could be reinstated. In removing those platforms though, the present application has rather needlessly removed the Cenotaph as well. The excuse for this treatment is the projected increase in tram traffic which will be created by the new metrolink line intended to run down Princess Street and join the existing line at Mosley Street, precisely the area where it is planned to relocate the Cenotaph. 

Which brings me to my second objection. The relocated Cenotaph has little defined relationship to its surrounding buildings and streets. A tentative relationship to Lloyd Street could be observed, but the view along Fountain Street and towards the gable of the Town Hall Extension has been ignored. An axial relationship to the often closed rear entrance to the Town Hall is established but is relatively weak in its treatment.

The most telling omission from the images which accompany the present application are the new tramlines, junctions and attendant uprights to support cables and lights which will seriously compromise the new Cenotaph and surround it on the Princess Street and Mosley Street sides. If the purpose of this expensive proposal is to remove the Cenotaph from the negative proximity to the metrolink then it clearly fails, and the Cenotaph should stay in the honoured position it currently holds. The years of neglect to which it has been subject, through harmful neighbouring construction and inappropriate cleaning can be rectified by a careful though overdue restoration of the memorial in its intended location.

Yours faithfully

Eamonn Canniffe
Programme Leader, MA Architecture + Urbanism
Manchester School of Architecture

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails