Photos by John Moss
Manchester Buildings (1)
building boom began in the 19th century, and the city still retains
much of its Victorian grandeur. However, like many other UK cities
it has also suffered from the excesses of high rise building in steel
and concrete in the 1960s and 70s; the Crescents in Hulme, now thankfully
gone, being possibly the most infamous examples, and some of the city's
best buildings were demolished to make way for many of these 20th
century monstrosities. Fortunately, there were some excellent buildings
to offset the others - here are the best and a few of the worst.
Piccadilly Rail Station, Manchester
Running along the whole length of Piccadilly Station Approach, Gateway
House is one of the visitor's first views of the City of Manchester.
Gateway House, Piccadilly Station Approach
It was carried
out as part of a greater improvement and refurbishment of Piccadilly
Station in the 1960s, and was actually completed in 1969. Designed
by Richard Seifert & Partners, its sweeping curved glass frontage
adds a somewhat baroque sense to the old London Road approach to Manchester.
At ground floor level are shops. The site formerly houses several
derelict warehouses of the old Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire
Railway (the MS&LR). Only one, the London
Warehouse, still survives, nowadays as a new high class luxury
Also: Railway Stations
& Spencer Department Store
On 15 June 1996, a 3,000lb terrorist car bomb exploded in Manchester,
ripping into the fabric of the city's main shopping centre - among
them the original Marks & Spencer Department Store. See
IRA Bombing. In the aftermath, the old store had to be completely
demolished, but M&S decided to rebuild - bigger, grander and better.
What resulted was the largest M&S department store in the world,
measuring over 32,500 square metres of space on four floors.
Left: the original M&S Store - now demolished. Right: the
new M&S Store
Building Design Partnership, conceived a monolithic concrete form,
poured on-site, covering a footprint measuring 65 metres by 100 metres.
Reinforcement of the concrete took 4,200 metric tons of steel, erected
by the Bovis Company. Most of the exterior is covered by glass curtain
walling, with masonry in Jura Limestone cladding. The whole project,
computer designed had to be constructed and completed over a two year
period. The new building is umbilically joined to the Arndale Shopping
Centre by a superb glass suspended walkway bridge to replace the original
which was fatally damaged in the bombing. The new building presents
essentially glass wall on all facades and has a major access point
at the newly created Exchange Square side to the north.
Designed by Covell Matthews & Partners and built between 1959
and 1965, this was, from the outset, one of Manchester's most controversial
buildings. Its sheer size out of all proportion to its architectural
merit or importance. Dominating Piccadilly Gardens on the south side,
it was remodelled and refurbished in 2001 by Leslie Jones Architects.
The complex is effectively four discrete units, the horizontal podium
block, the Piccadilly Hotel block, Sunley
Tower, and Bernard House, (currently under demolition and replacement).
The ground Floor of the podium contains shops, and there is underground
car parking. For many years the Plaza been home to Manchester's Piccadilly
For much of its
life, the Plaza's untreated concrete has grown ever more shabby, and
in such a high profile central location, nobody quite knew what to
do with it.
In many ways, however, it is architecturally quite daring. The hotel
slab, with its cantilevered block overhanging Portland Street below
is initially quite breathtaking. Conversely, the office slab, Sunley
House, rises 24 storeys above the podium showing a rather blank concrete
side face to Piccadilly Gardens and the bus station below. This aspect
is actually surface decorated with concrete printed circuitry motifs
standing out in relief - a detail that has always failed to be recognised
by passers-by, and none but students of architecture have ever identified
them - a complete waste of time and effort. The Plaza is a good example
of the" Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and Mancunians tend
to either love it or hate it.
By the mid-1960s,
the inner city area lying between Withy Grove, Corporation Street,
Shudehill and Market Street, was ready for some serious redevelopment.
It had grown up haphazard and hotchpotch, many of its old cobbled
streets were shabby and congested.
Begun in 1972,
by Arndale Property Trust, headed by Sam Chippendale, on completion
in 1979 it was the largest covered town shopping centre in Europe,
encompassing some 30 acres in the old city centre, with over 200 shops,
major department stores, restaurants and fast food outlets. It has
become a busy and active shopping arcade with over 75,000 shoppers
The Centre also houses an 1,800 space multi-storey car park, shopping
malls on two levels, office space in the tower, residential flats
at roof parking level, and the Arndale Centre Bus Station at Cannon
Street, (closed by the IRA bombing
of Manchester in 1996, and not yet reopened - its future somewhat
The design for
the Centre was made by the architects Hugh Wilson and Lewis Womersley,
who had already redeveloped the University Precinct on Oxford Road,
as well as a considerable involvement in the redevelopment of housing
in the Hulme area.
It was a controversial development, obliterating some of Manchester's
old streets and alleys, and stubbornly defying all the old Victorian
grandeur surrounding it, with its massive monolithic concrete forms
and unrelieved ceramic cladding. The whole project cost some £100
million - a then unthinkable sum.
The land earmarked
for rebuilding had been designated as a "Comprehensive Development
Area" by the City Council. Many different companies had bought
and owned the land through the 1970s, but it was eventually to be
built by Town & City Properties, who, in the face of mounting
financial difficulties and substantial underwritten loans of over
£16 million, sold the lease to P&O Properties, who managed
the complex until 1998 when it was taken over by the Prudential.
The Centre houses
many major department stores and famous High Street names, including
W H Smith, BHS, Littlewoods, Mothercare, Tandy's, etc, as well as
innumerable other smaller concessions.
It's very large beige coloured tiled cladding is looking a little
tired nowadays, despite having been designed as "self-cleaning"
- an experiment that clearly failed! The whole northern frontage in
Corporation street has been completely rebuilt in the aftermath of
the bombing, and presents an altogether more attractive aspect to
the newly created Exchange Square.
Generally, though its interiors provide a pleasant enough shopping
environment, the exterior is widely disliked for its blandness and
scale: there are many (residents and visitors alike) who feel that
this mid-1960s concept is too gargantuan an edifice to dominate the
city centre, surrounded as it is with so many other fine period buildings.
A complete renovation of the much-hated exterior of the Arndale Centre
has recently been completed as well as revamping Market Street. Work
began in February 2003. Its infamous yellow tiles have disappeared!
A new entrance atrium, Cromford Court, has been created and floodlit
at night. Further redevelopment is currently in progress at the Cannon
Street-Shudehill end of the complex.
The CIS Tower
Wholesale Society, Miller Street, Manchester
the best of all the 1960s high rise Manchester office blocks - it
rises some 25 storeys, over 400 feet above ground level. Building
began in 1959, and this tall tower dominates the approach to Manchester
from Bury and Cheetham Hill in the north.
It was to be the
Co-operative Society's flagship head office and administrative centre
The design team, who included the Co-op's own G S Hay and Gordon Tait
of Burnett, Tait & Partners, had actually visited Chicago in the
USA to study the Inland Steel Building by celebrated architect/engineers,
Skidmore Owings & Merril to gain inspiration for the project -
a fact, no doubt, that explains the outstanding quality of the CIS
building, which still holds its own among later more high tech city
centre buildings today.
Three aims had been dictated by the owners - 1) the building should
create prestige for the company, 2) it should complement and improve
the skyline of Manchester, and 3) it should provide a first class
working environment for the staff. It was deemed to have fulfilled
all three requirements on completion in 1962.
The building is really two stuck together - one a steel and glass
tower, which is the working offices area of the building, and the
other adjoining as a windowless mosaic covered concrete service tower.
No expense was spared on quality - all steel was black enamelled,
and the mosaic covering, though expensive, was designed to protect
and render the concrete virtually maintenance-free. Both materials
have withstood the subsequent 40 years of Manchester grime, and the
building still looks relatively smart after four decades of exposure
to the worst that Manchester has thrown at it. The spacious entrance
hall carries a fibreglass mural by William Mitchell. The interior
cherry and teak veneers were researched and recommended by Misha Black
and the Design Research Team.
55 King Street,
time this National Westminster Bank building was the most expensive
in Manchester, costing over £12 million. Designed by Casson,
Conder & Partners between 1966-69, it is a fortress-like edifice,
purposely built in black stone to resist the (then) notorious Manchester
soot which covered virtually all the buildings in the city centre.
This sombreness was also thought appropriate for the bank's former
northern headquarters, overseeing 700 branches throughout the northwest
be knighted, Sir Hugh Casson was senior member of the design partnership
- it had been he who had laid out the Festival of Britain in London
in 1951. Later he was to become President of the Royal Academy. The
bank was constructed in situ of monolithic poured concrete with steel
reinforcement, as an all-concrete shell with transfer beams and external
voids for window apertures - a simple elegant design solution.
It's rough hand-tooled vertically ribbed dark cladding of Swedish
granite is perhaps its most distinctive external feature, apart from
its great bulk as it dwarfs other commercial buildings around it -
though only six storeys above ground it has an outstanding massiveness
which dominates King Street. There are also 3 basement storeys below
street level. The building's ground floor is now a small retail shopping