What do you mean?
I mean what were people thinking?
Calm down dear as the PM says, breathe, what are you on about?
That fountain in Lincoln Square. The one made from chocolate coloured bricks. According to the inscription on the side of the thing it says: ‘This fountain commemorates the wedding of HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. 29 July 1981.’
Eh? There’s no fountain in Lincoln Square, I’ve looked.
Well technically there isn’t one any more. But there was. Look at this picture of Lincoln Square from the days of The Smiths and you’ll see one of those classic dribbly pointless fountains where now there’s a flowerbed.
So what happened here then?
It appears that the city fathers and mothers watched on as the country caught Royal Wedding fever for Charles and Diana. Then after the event they thought, that was nice, now what did we do officially compared to other cities? Oops not very much. Quick think of something.
And the fountain was the result.
Yep. I imagine Sid from Direct Works or somewhere said: “Hey, we’ve got a load of those brown, chocolate bricks left from building a crematorium, I could get the job scheme lads to make a brick rectangle, we could put a garden centre fountain in and we have a memorial.”
Was there a proper design process at all?
No, nothing at all as far as I can see. This was the lowest point of architectural design in the city’s history. It was a time when a fear of the excesses of recent Modernism and Brutalism (Piccadilly Plaza and its ilk) had made the planning authorities panic and look to traditional materials such as brick, even when the scale of new buildings precluded them. Worse they didn’t even go for the lovely mellow orange brick of most nineteenth century buildings but went for a non-traditional shade even though it looked ridiculous.
Rather safe than sorry then?
Rather safe than sorry for about six months and then sorry ever after. This area is blighted by bad architecture of the late seventies and early eighties. Brazennose Street begins with the hideous Heron House (1982) and ends with the vile Centurion House (1977) both from Leach Rhodes Walker, both in horrible brown brick. The Charles and Diana fountain is smack between the two and made of the same brick. As opinion has softened over the Piccadilly complex and other concrete Modernist buildings, these structures remain like a poor stodgy Soup of the Day on a Berni Inn menu of the period.
But why is it a flowerbed now?
Manchester for some reason has had a problem with fountains. Within a few years maintenance became an issue, so the spouts were removed and bulbs installed, flower bulbs. Unfortunately the dedication to the ‘fountain’ remained. And then the foolishness was compounded.
When Princess Diana died in that car crash in Paris, the city thought they’d mark the tragedy with a lame companion dedication to the lame wedding text from 1981. It was sadly an illiterate dedication too. It goes: ‘In Memory of Diana Princess of Wales 1961-97 The People’s Princess Fondly remembered always by the people of Manchester’. It has random capitalisation, it feels like it was written by a child.
What should happen to the flowerbed?
The whole thing is presently an embarrassment to the city, it’s gone a bit wonky too, the centre of the flowerbed has collapsed. It should be removed, the dedications given to Manchester Museum for a display called the Archaeology of the Recent Past.
Have there been other permanent Royal Wedding commemorations?
Not many I know of. Some street names though. George Street and Charlotte Street in the Chinatown area were named for the union of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on 22 September 1761.
Anything planned for Wills and Kate?
There appear to be no plans to create a formal monument in Manchester for this wedding. Shame really.
I have a pile of old bricks in my back garden I’m trying to get rid of.
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