The re-design of the Metrolink tram stations, especially the one in St Peter’s Square, are causing a stir.
This clumsy and tacky Metrolink stop has shown no deference to these beautiful buildings and we have to ask ourselves if other world cities would treat such important public spaces and such important buildings with such contempt.
So in the style of a boxing bout, we have, in the blue corner, Eddy Rhead, a spokesperson from pressure-group, the Twentieth Century Society.
Eddy’s not pulling his punches either.
‘Our streets are already cluttered with ugly and usually unnecessary 'street furniture',” says Rhead. “Normally this is just an annoyance but in an important public space such as St Peter’s Square it is a disgrace. Important views across the Square have been ruined by ugly and frankly useless barriers and shelters for the re-designed Metrolink stop.
‘The Cenotaph and Central Library, two of Manchester's finest structures andboth listed buildings, are obscured from some angles. You have to wonder if listed buildings’ consent was sought and gained?The Cenotaph, it must also be remembered, is a memorial and as such should be shown dignity. Not ring fenced by cheap, ugly barriers which serve no purpose what-so-ever apart from being probably compliant with the latest Health and Safety advice.
‘This clumsy and tacky Metrolink stop has shown no deference to these beautiful buildings and we have to ask ourselves if other world cities - who we claim we want to compete with - would treat such important public spaces and such important buildings with such contempt.”
In the yellow corner is Philip Purdy, the Metrolink director, who parried the Twentieth Century Society with a couple of well-directed jabs.
“Throughout this project,” he told Confidential, “we have recognised and respected the significance of the stop’s location and worked closely with Manchester City Council, English Heritage, the Royal British Legion and Manchester and District Local Ex-Services Associations to finalise the design.
“The redevelopment work we’ve undertaken at St Peter’s Square reflects the fact that it is one of the most heavily used stops on the Metrolink network. We want travelling by Metrolink to be a pleasant experience for all passengers and the barriers and shelters have been provided to ensure safety and comfort. “The other work we’ve undertaken makes it easier for people to get on and off trams and has boosted accessibility to this important civic space for everyone.”
First off we think that the shelters on the platforms are much better than the last lumpy lot, with thinner, more graceful profiles which hopefully will keep a little bit of rain off. So that’s a Metrolink win: the fact they don’t defer to the surrounding architecture isn’t a problem here as they are so airy. Confidential likes the new colour scheme as well.
Next up, the fences are shocking especially where they curve round the memorial gardens - do they really have to be that long? They seem intrusive and utterly needless. Why aren’t people allowed to sit on the little wall round the gardens in any case? Fences in city centres are nearly always wrong and nearly always ugly, and the Health and Safety executive are always design-blind. The Twentieth Century Society is right on this one.
So far, points are shared fifty fifty.
And let's declare the bout a tie.
Because there can be no result.
The big issue here about the Metrolink station infringing on views of the Central Library and the Cenotaph (and also on their access) is a non-issue. Once the decision was made to site the stop here twenty years ago it was always going to be an intrusion.
The right place for the station should be where the Peace Garden is, further back up Mosley Street. The Peace Garden is an awkward and neglected never walked through piece of pointless greenery which few people would miss. If the decision had been made to place the stop in there, sat between an anonymous office block and well away from the rear of the Town Hall, it would have been perfect. And just in the right place for the Visitors Information Centre too, while any loss in greenery could have been made up with landscaping round the Cenotaph. Problem is that that particular tram, so to speak, has bolted.
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