Whenever I go to Manchester, I can’t help noticing a city centre (for the most part) that knits together.

You can read in the streets, buildings and places, a forward thinking planning policy and a bravery to get things done in the past 10-20 years.

Change is never perfect for everyone, but somehow new and old in this centre sit together with a degree of comfort.

Here’s a few photos from my route. I’d say there is more special stuff from the past than from the present.

Many of the newer buildings can’t quite seem to address the human scale, and don’t have that special quality that brings them to life. A result of the way we procure our buildings now, and how we design and assemble them.

Most people are proud of where they come from, but Mancunians seem happiest to tell everyone else rather than keep it to themselves.

If people are proud of a place, then I guess it follows that they will look after it and take an interest in its health.

Its no accident I think that this is the city, along with Liverpool, that spawned developer Urban Splash.

Northern Quarter backstreets

A great shopfront – Inviting – Warm – Enclosed but still feeling open. Not accessible though.

Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

A big building shell allows internal complexity that really works to develop in stages over time.

Old buildings, new uses. Ground floors change must faster than the upper floors. Nearly all of Remodel’s commercial work is on the ground floor level.

Campfield Market Hall waiting for life to return.

The Old Rochdale Canal heading West. There’s and book on Manchester in the 1970’s. This same view shows the canal basin drained and the hulk of wooden barges resting on the bottom rotting. Now a bit of the countryside in the hearth of the city.

I can see the Beetham Tower when I’m running along the top of the Peninnes to the East of the city. No doubt the residents can see the Peninnes too. Its definitely not my idea of a home.

I sense that Manchester centre is the collaboration a commited and creative local authority, designers and developers. In its new buildings though, I see buildings that speak a lot of the corporate world, and not enough of the down to earth real world that Manchester is famous for.

I wonder how Cameron’s overhaul of the planning system might change our inner cities?Might a new fast track planning system derail years of careful thought in Manchester, or will it let back in an element of experimentation to counter the glass and steel of the corporations. We can’t rely on our historic building fabric to humanise our built environment. We need to design this into new buildings too.


  • October 19, 2011 Reply


    nice pictures Russ!

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