Peel Holdings, owners of the Trafford Centre, developers of Mediacity and much else, have in the past seemed high-handed in their attitude to criticism.The old Manchester Ship Canal Company seemingly couldn't believe that anybody would ever turn against one of their schemes.
In that case while we think this is an acceptable design and much better than the terrible original design, it isn't special. You can't help but think that some of our European brethren would have been a bit braver in such a location.
So while they were surprised when their lumpen Jackson's Wharf development was initially turned down, they were astonished when the design was turned down a second time - almost exactly a year ago.But they appear to have learned their lesson.
They have a new scheme in the planning department awaiting perusal. Whereas the previous design by Ian Simpson Architects was too square, too heavy, and too high in leering over the nearby canal warehouse turned apartment block, Castle Quay, this design is much more suitable.
The architect leading the new Jackson's Wharf scheme is David Green of Ian Simpson Architects (ISA). As these pictures show, he has lowered the height from seven to six storeys, lightened the bulk and given it a profile respectful of the surrounding buildings. There are now 88 apartments as opposed to 116 in the original plans.
The change from the old design is so marked, so much more airy and light of touch, it makes you wonder whether the first one was just spat out by the designers over a Friday afternoon. Probably not.
A clever touch in the new scheme is in splitting the building into two blocks pivoted on a glass service and communal area. The higher block is close to the canal and the lower block on Blantyre street, reducing in height from front to back as it should. There is a generous terrace to the canal as well.
Another clever touch was in talking to people.
Thus Ed Burrows of Peel and David Green of ISA invited residents and local businesses, together with key interested parties such as Manchester Confidential, into the architect's office to view the proposals and talk them through. Suggestions were made by the guests at the meetings, some of which have been implemented.This was very welcome and further to this Peel intend to hold an exhibition soon in the area to show off the proposals.
Confidential had a couple of concerns which we expressed at the meeting. First off the facade to the canal in the proposal was reminiscent of One Piccadilly, with its blocky brick elements, and given the Allies and Morrison building is one of the most derided in the city that didn't bode well. Although to be fair this design seems much more aware of its surroundings.
That latter point might be the bigger of our concerns though. Is this building too conscious of being brick and being careful? Shouldn't everything in Castlefield be designed to be the very very best it can possibly be? Shouldn't this be the showcase place? The location as we've said many times is historically significant at an international level. It could also become central Manchester's main recreation area – these factors should be at the forefront of every designer or developer's mind.
In that case while we think this is an acceptable design and much better than the terrible original design, it isn't special. You can't help but think that some of our European brethren would have been a bit braver in such a location. Indeed why have those thick brick elements at all, a sharply designed glass box might have been more satisfactory here, and certainly more exciting? The massing of the buildings from canal side up to the ziggurat of City Gate on Chester Road is already oppressive with brick after all.
Still, at least through this re-working of the Jackson's Wharf scheme we've learnt that Peel Holdings have a human touch. At last something like the correct approach to development in so sensitive an area has been made. So well done Peel and Ian Simpson Architects for that at least.
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