Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Objection to the stopping up of Library Walk, Manchester

26 February 2014

Liz Treacy
City Solicitor
PO Box 532
Town Hall
M60 2LA

Ref L/NJM/EVD5001/1080

Dear Ms Treacy


Library Walk is an integral part of E.Vincent Harris's projects to enhance the civic quarter of Manchester, and his two buildings (both now listed as Grade II*) exert through their materials, forms and silhouette a strong impact on the broader cityscape. The space which joins his two powerful buildings should not, therefore, be regarded as an accidental oversight which requires remedying, but as the conscious creation of a beautiful pedestrian walk between two fine and contrasting elevations which unfold before the observer. Depending on the route taken, Library Walk acts as a dynamic frame both for St. Peter's Square, currently undergoing a major redesign, and the facade of the Friends Meeting House. This urban sequence is a unique feature of Manchester's townscape which the city can ill afford to lose.

The proposed gating of Library Walk and the insertion of a glazed link within it will clearly hinder access to this hitherto public route in the city. The unfortunate decision to create a link at ground level, in addition to the new link created between the Library and the Town Hall Extension below grade in the recent refurbishment projects, is both superfluous and detrimental to policies to enhance access to public space and the permeability of routes within the city.

During the construction process for the Library and the Town Hall extension it was necessary for Library Walk to be closed to public access. Following the successful completion of the projects it is therefore the duty of Manchester City Council to return Library Walk to full public use, and not the limited hours proposed in the Order. Failure to do so will lead to a very bad precedent being set in regard to its continuing role as a planning authority.

As an experienced academic I have had the pleasure over decades of taking hundreds of international visitors around Manchester and showing them many great buildings and, inevitably, a few horrors. Library Walk was always a highlight, and the groups confirmed that it was a uniquely delightful urban space which has few precedents. Should the Stopping Up Order be approved this innovative spatial experience will be lost to visitors and residents alike, in favour of creating yet another example of dead public space, which, when its gates are open, will inevitably be occupied by smokers banned from the neighbouring buildings. The recent installation of the misshapen roof of the link, which is visually much more dominant than was shown in the architects' drawings, demonstrates very clearly the folly of closing up this public right of way, and I hope this Order will not be approved.

Yours sincerely

Eamonn Canniffe MA Dip.Arch. (Cantab)
Programme Leader
MA Architecture + Urbanism
Manchester School of Architecture

from a photograph by Shirley Bainbridge
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