Category: Very good
Who were the architects?
Ansell and Bailey, who it appears did little else in Manchester. Indeed, it's hard to find much mention of them anywhere.
What’s so good about Peter House?
It's lovely discipline. It’s a crafted piece of good taste with perfect manners. A large building of 12 floors with a sharp and a site-specific take on the International Modern......
Stop a minute, tell us again: what is the International Modern style?
I’ll quote you the Penguin Dictionary of Architecture: ‘The style is characterised by asymmetrical composition, unrelievedly cubic general shapes, an absence of mouldings, large windows often in horizontal bands, and a predilection for white rendering.’ It was created in Europe a century ago but became popular in the UK only after the Second World War.
The description fits, except Peter House isn’t asymmetrical?Nope, but I did say it was site specific. The shadowy Amsell and Bailey obviously wanted to defer to the classical Central Library. So they went for symmetry as the Library had to by being classical and round. At the same time the architects matched the Central Library’s external surfaces by facing the building in Portland stone – a very un-'Modern' material. In 1958 all the smart architects were indulging in orgies of concrete, metal, glass and tile.
Of course. Although Peter House defers to the public architecture of Central Library it has a real street presence itself. With its gentle curve to the south that main frontage looks like the bridge of a ship from a great ocean liner, it’s got power and grace, a rich functional dignity. At the same time the curve echoes the street pattern here with Oxford Street and Peter Street bending back like a bow tensed along the arrow of Lower Mosley Street and Mosley Street. The sturdy front extensions don’t damage that grace at all, but add almost a element of humour, looking, as they do, like two chunky thighs. The shop units on the ground floor are grafted on with great care.
Hasn’t it been refurbished recently?
It has. And this is a fine job internally, especially in the foyer pictured here. The cleaning has really spruced it up on the outside too. Not sure about the glass extensions on the stairwells on each end, which break the streamlining, these were an error, but overall the Regus owned property, still retains its power to appeal. You can even win an office here in a Confidential offer on the Homepage.
Why have you got a picture of a man with a pint?
I found him in my collection of old photos and books on the city. This must have been at the topping out of Peter House circa 1957. He should be the developer standing proudly on the top of the new building, but look at his shoes, his coat, his fag in hand and his manic grin. He’s a fifties builder without hi-vis jacket or helmet. He looks pissed. I like him, although his beer looks a bit watery. Why the picture was taken is anybody’s guess. Maybe it was a promotional campaign to encourage the taking of alcohol in thrilling locations.
What can we see behind him?
Well the buildings on the left stand on the site of the present Peace Gardens with the Town Hall Extension smoke blackened behind them. The square lacks the animation (or the clutter) of the trams. It also lacks those railings which have so annoyed readers, see the Shelter Shocker Fence Farce article on the Property Homepage.
That’s a point, what was here before Peter House?
The plot had been empty since WWII, but before that it was a theatre; Prince’s Theatre. This was opened in 1864 by the city’s most famous actor-manager of the day, Charles Calvert. According to Terry Wyke and Neil Rudyard in their book Manchester Theatres, Princes Theatre pioneered two theatrical innovations. They instigated the practice of ‘early doors’ whereby a more expensive ticket could be purchased so a customer could enter the theatre early and avoid queuing. More charmingly the theatre pioneered the tip-up seat to make access into and maintenance of the auditorium much easier.
25 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.
I started work at Dial House in 1946, as a trainee telephonist . Did any body else work at the…Read more
I'm sure it will happen over time, the sprawling suburbs will start to creep back towards the city…Read more
To digress a little but in a similar mindset,why has nobody done anything about regenerating…Read more
I'm basically saying that 2 peters square is set to be an equivalent North tower. But at least that…Read more