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Architecture Week 2005

Published on June 21st 2005.

Most people aren’t aware that they are interested in architecture, they just like what they see and they know which places they like to go. “Get Closer” is the theme for this year’s Architecture Week, a celebration of the built environment throughout the UK. In its ninth year, Architecture Week aims to bring buildings to life via a series of visual and sensory experiences. It’s all about access to views, highlighting unusual perspectives, and allowing entry to places the public can’t usually go.

Architecture Week arrives in Manchester at quite a significant moment – the ninth anniversary of the 1996 IRA bomb that tore through the Arndale Centre on 15th June, completely collapsing that area of our city centre and injuring hundreds of people. Incredibly nobody was killed, despite the bomb being the second largest explosion ever to happen on mainland Britain.

Amongst Corporation Streets ruins stood a completely undamaged hundred year old post box that had withstood the 3300lb blast despite being just 5 metres away. The letters inside were unharmed and were collected and delivered just eleven days later. A powerful symbol of the strength and spirit of Manchester, the post box quietly sits in exactly the same spot today with only a discreet plaque to record its significance in Manchester’s history.

The subsequent redevelopment of the area completely reshaped Manchester, creating an acclaimed chic and exciting city with impressive shops and buzzing nightlife. The loss of one million square feet of shopping space not only provided an opportunity to redesign the Arndale, but it sparked an ambitious and unprecedented regeneration project.

The Manchester Millennium committee led the city’s renewal, securing public sector funding of £83 million with an approximate £400 million from private sector investment.

A distinctive and fashionable metropolis was created; with New York architect Martha Schwartz being drafted in to redesign the windmill littered Exchange Square. When M&S opened their largest ever store it was a clear nod to the real possibilities of locating in Manchester. Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, and Louis Vuitton were quick to follow suit.

To celebrate Architecture Week 2005, there are plenty of events happening across the city. Be sure to check out our events calendar to find out about exhibitions, views and walks that are happening.

Regardless of the renaissance that was going on all around Manchester, developers were keen to keep the historical heart of the city. It was crucial not to leave the Cathedral, which was built in 1421, isolated on the edge of a new, modern city. New gardens and walkways were created to bring the Cathedral back into the fold. In fact, so keen were the developers to maintain the soul of the city, that they moved Sinclair’s pub brick by brick!

The new M&S is not the only new building to spring up during Manchester’s regeneration. The new Urbis museum in Cathedral Walks is an amazing glass creation that just rises and rises from the area devastated by the bomb. Stunning from all angles, the top floors of Urbis offer some spectacular views of the city. Then there’s The Lowry, with its waterside location on the redeveloped Salford Quays this arresting glass and metallic structure is miles away from the dark, imposing mills painted by Salford’s LS Lowry, the buildings name-sake. A striking footbridge joins the Lowry to the Imperial War Museum; an aluminium clad building offering superb views from half way up its 55 metre tower, and Old Trafford Stadium, a structure that perhaps isn’t quite “The Theatre of Dreams”.

In addition to this, much of the city is changing before our very eyes. Every day a new tower block seems to be appearing on the skyline, whilst the Piccadilly area is undergoing a major transformation to bring a wealth of new business and productivity to the area, newfound business inspired by the architecture in the likes of the new Piccadilly Place development. Very soon, pedestrian routes into the city will transform the way many of us even get to work – architecture isn’t just for the city’s skyline, but down around our feet as well.

In amongst all this new architecture there are still some fabulous old buildings in Manchester. We can safely boast to have one of the best town halls in the world. Stood on a triangular site, the building was designed in 1877 by Liverpool-born Alfred Waterhouse. It’s probably best to view at a distance; from Albert Square the sheer size of the building makes it difficult to see the various roofs, turrets and chimneys.

So, next time you get five minutes in-between rushing to work and rushing home from work just take five minutes to look around you. We live in a fabulous city. Whilst the 1996 bomb may have ripped into the very heart of Manchester, it is a testimony to the character and grit of the city how forcefully it bounced back.



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