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Shelter shocker fence farce

The Twentieth Century Society despair of the new St Peter’s Square Metrolink Station

Published on November 10th 2009.


Shelter shocker fence farce

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.”

Nice words from Mr Purdy there, but they don’t quite address the Twentieth Society’s criticisms. Let Confidential sit in judgement and award the victory.

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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36 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Una PlannerNovember 10th 2009.

I read recently that that closing St.Peters square to traffic entirely is under consideration so that tram might not have bolted after all. Metrolink is the perfect example of a 'camel', that is a horse designed by committee. Twenty years ago it was considered preferable to build railway platforms in the city centre rather than remove them from exisiting stations in the suburbs. This now looks extremely short sighted and the upshot is that all extensions to the network now have to replicate this, even when they are built entirely from scratch (e.g. Eccles line). To see how seamless an urban tram system should look you only have to visit Dublin for inspiration (or Barcelona if you want to get a suntan at the same time).

to China and backNovember 10th 2009.

2. these trams operate in East(!) Germany, neither rich nor the centre of the universe...3. ergo: not to go for a second world system would result in no platforms, no balustrades and other dodgy street furniture, no H&S cow poo-poo and would come free with acceptable urban landscaping...

east lancsNovember 10th 2009.

Also, no thought appears to have been given to pedestrians who need to walk through the stop on their journey. You're effectively forced into single file by the massed throngs of commuters awaiting their delayed tram.

JackNovember 10th 2009.

A lack of aspiration indeed - Frank Pick and Charles Holden unified the designs for London Transport in the 1930's - they used the best architects, artists, textile and graphic designers. From the map to the posters, the stations to the seat covers - not to mention that famous logo - all considered as part of a whole. GMPTE could learn a lot from this attitude.

DarrenNovember 10th 2009.

Those railings must be the cheapest going. Howabout some sweeping curved railings? A 16 year-old GCSE CDT student could have come up with better looking railings than that. Smacks of cheapness. As does the whole tram-stop. Oh and glass and rain and a hint of sun = muddy green glass very quickly.

AnonymousNovember 10th 2009.

Jack says..“ A lack of aspiration indeed - Frank Pick and Charles Holden unified the designs for London Transport in the 1930's - they used the best architects, artists, textile and graphic designers. From the map to the posters, the stations to the seat covers - not to mention that famous logo - all considered as part of a whole. GMPTE could learn a lot from this attitude. spot on.

HaptonNovember 10th 2009.

I don't think that yellow is the colour in Merseyside for transport is a problem is it? Now that fence that curves down the slope....of dear.

The SparkNovember 10th 2009.

Check out the trams in Bordeaux, wonderfully discreet and absolutely beautiful. The buildings take centre stage (though admittedly you would need a brolly to keep dry, small inconvenience)

chorlton schmorltonNovember 10th 2009.

Weren't the fronts of the platforms supposed to be dressed in stone rather than breezeblocks with white gloss slapped on them?

ollieNovember 10th 2009.

the picture at the top right of the white painted breezeblocks actually upsets and offends my eyes.

to China and backNovember 10th 2009.

baldmosher, if this type of tram does not require a platform, why do we have a platform? Have a look here what a proper tram looks like, note the wheelchair access!www.morgenpost.de/…/exity2_BM_Berli_200352b.jpg…

EditorialNovember 10th 2009.

Eddy, we've outted you - in a 20th Century Society way

scoteeeNovember 10th 2009.

I understand the importance of aesthetics on this subject but it still amazes me that after all this time and financial investment the upgrade is complete yet I still have to cram myself on to one tram on the Altrincham line in the morning..

baldmosherNovember 10th 2009.

1. The trams don't require platforms, they have retractable steps. But that's not much use if you're in a wheelchair. 2. If you want to blame anyone for over-zealous H&S precautions, blame the careless fools who sue the council when they trip over in the street. 3. If your view of the Central Library is obstructed, stand somewhere else.

dazNovember 10th 2009.

Bloody disgusting. Needs to be ripped up and the designers sacked.

miserablemikeNovember 10th 2009.

Lets face it, the designers arent going to be using this particular tram station & I would be shocked if anyone in the top eschelons of Metrolink actually use the trams. They dont. They should try the 5pm squeeze and ask the fee payers if they enjoy their suffocating travelling experience. On the other hand - Its a fence!

BoyAloudNovember 10th 2009.

In response to Lee, amazingly in this instance I reckon it's right to be half tarmaced as that side of the road has many double decker buses travelling along it which are probably heavier than trams and would destroy the paving if it was there.

LeeNovember 10th 2009.

In response to BoyAloud, i can see what you mean however it looks like granite to me and every street in Manchester is made of granite cobbles which can stand huge weights upon them so if they are thick enough i dont see the problem, also if you look closely by the art gallery you will see that where the granite stops anf the tarmac starts its not even a clean break, as if they just suddenly run out of money and didnt bother with a clean line

DavidNovember 10th 2009.

H&S will put barriers everywhere and if you don't agree with them you are always wrong anyway. They are so arrogant. Someone should take them and ditch them on another planet along with traffic wardens. Just look how ugly the northern end of this square is now, and the barrier in Canal St. is as bad.

Jimmy MacNovember 10th 2009.

I understand the need to conform to health and safety standards and as such the requirement for railings. But those railings? Did they employ a designer or did they just get the contractor to stick in some they had lying around? They look like an afterthought and cheapen the area still further.

anonNovember 10th 2009.

Don't forget the lovely new Piccadilly Gardens tram stop, which features one closed off entrance/exit and a whopping great hole in the road right next to it... could they not be bothered finishing this stop on time? Did they run out of time and now they're never going to finish it? Wtf is going on with that? It's been in the same state since November 1st when all the work was meant to have finished!

to China and backNovember 10th 2009.

Who invented trams that require platforms? Which other council has bought into a rubbish system like this? Do postcards on sale in town still depict this dinosaur technology? Shocking!

LeeNovember 10th 2009.

I cannot believe those stupid ugly fences! What fool thought that was a good idea, i just hope today's rememberance day went off ok with the squares new structures and barriers. The Peace Garden is a total waste of space so i think the metro stop should be put there and return the square back to a proper square. Another thing, what on earth has happened to all the brand new granite paving outside the art gallery?? have the council ran out of money or was it designed to only be half paved and half tarmac'ed! amazing!

AnonymousNovember 10th 2009.

Surely the raised platforms could be demolished in the city centre and step access used for tram access, with one of the entrances on each trams converted to ramp access for wheelchairs, prams etc. This would then mean the Metrolink extenstions would not need raised platforms built at each stop. Keep the old platforms on old railway lines, but building new raised platforms seems pointless

ADNovember 10th 2009.

Its all pretty horible but I cant blame them for the barriers, if an expert/consultant advises you that you need them to be safe and you dont put them in then when something goes wrong its probably your job. And while idiots go round sueing people for the least thing the experts/consultants will keep recomending barriers etc everywhere they can possibly put them.

Eddy RheadNovember 10th 2009.

The spokesperson from the C20 Society is correct (as well as being very handsome i believe). Compare this view images.manchester.gov.uk/…/webmedia.php?irn=71563… to the one shown in the photograph. The 'shelters' are meaningless and offer no weather protection - only serving to obscure that view of the library and completely obliterating certain views of the Cenotaph. Also, is the glass on the balustrades ever going to be cleaned? It is obviously an attempt for the barriers to be less intrusive but will only end up looking grubby. The fences scream of over-compensation towards H&S which are obviously in response to the horrific St Peters Square Disaster when, as we will never forget, hundreds of people were killed by falling off a 12 inch high wall!

baldmosherNovember 10th 2009.

4. "Manchester appears just poor and utterly provincial in comparison.” Compared to Barcelona, Manchester IS poor and provincial. What's your point?

EditorialNovember 10th 2009.

Eddy, Mr Saville will be adorning our homepage in two ticks. Maybe his latest work could be wrapped over the fences.

Eddy RheadNovember 10th 2009.

Where is Peter Saville when you need him?

AnonymousNovember 10th 2009.

The new branding is derivative (of merseytravel), hackneyed (go faster 'bubbles' anyone?) and incongruous (yellow and grey - uncomfortable partners at the best of times). Hideous.I agree the profile of the new stops is acceptable but the extensive use of steel panels rather than glass combined with the vile colour scheme and those intrusive and unnecessary barriers makes it appear thoughtless, utilitarian and dated with zero finesse. This result is not so much for a lack of funding but a lack of aspiration. I really despair sometimes. For all the council's proclamations of the importance and value of good design, how could they get it so badly wrong on something it procures itself, particularly somethign as important and iconic and identity affirming as a light rail system? Why is best practice in landscape design not being applied here? Why are we not commissioning the very best and most creative agencies to produce the branding? What a missed opportunity.

stevie0November 10th 2009.

hideous, how much was the branding company paid.. enough for a return fare to liverpool to see the almost identical merseytravel branding which is foul, unstylish and downright cheap loooking. Yellow is a very fissficult colour to get right in the built environment and guess what........

AnonymousNovember 10th 2009.

Be careful about the Peace Garden.After loosing trees to Cheethams trees people are likely to defend them to the death .Whose says the buses are going to go along Mosely street anyway? In any case the whole are is supposed to be Master Planned isn't it.

mNovember 10th 2009.

I recall a proposal to close the roads through St Peter's Square and re-route the tram lines to pass directly in front of Elisabeth House, along what is currently the route for Oxford Street-bound bus traffic. This means the tram line would border the cenotaph and St Peter's Square rather than dissecting it. Not only would this clear some of the sight lines to both the library and the cenotaph but it would create a large, very usable square that is currently shattered by an assault course of raised tram platforms and electrified monkey ropes. ManCon is right about the Peace gardens too. I believe they are to be retained as part of the plans for the square? Why? They sit awkwardly, are barely used and stand to signify a message which is thankfully not so relevant nowadays.

dominicanNovember 10th 2009.

Una Planner is quite right: it was the ludicrous decision to have platforms in the city centre rather than reduce the platforms on the suburban lines which has caused so many of the problems in St Peter's Square, Market Street, Piccadilly - and anywhere else in the suburbs where there was no railway track. And not just design probelms - the raised patforms are especially difficult for wheelchair access; and prevent people from walking where they want to walk. The sad thing is that this decision will forever blight the extensions planned for Metrolink.In response to chorlton schmorlton: as a sop, it was going to be stone facing on the platforms in St Peter's Square; but became breeze block because it was cheaper. Similar comments could be made about all the metrolink superstructure - basically off the peg structures put up without any thought for their context. Manchester can never hope to compete with its European counterparts when it has such a poorly designed public transport system. Barcelona has a brilliant underground and overground tram system which is always easy and pleasant to use, as well as buses and heavy rail. And it's inexpensive and easy to buy carnets. Manchester appears just poor and utterly provincial in comparison.

JanetNovember 10th 2009.

Wouldn't there have to be platforms for disabled access?

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