Designed by Professors Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein.
Grade A listed 1994 RIBA Bronze Medal
Should you so wish – jump the train from Glasgow Central, unless you’re already here/there.
Walk up West Mains Road, alone on a hill standing perfectly still sits St Bride’s, you can’t miss it.
The biggest extant example of Bricktalism, the most Bricktalist building in the world, possibly.
Stallan-Brand design director Paul Stallan commented:
St Bride’s for me is the most important modernist buildings of the period. The church made from Victorian sewer bricks and concrete is both simple and complex. The architecture continues to be a key reference for students of architecture from across the world interested in modernism and the contemporary vernacular in context. Andy and Isi’s work is as important to Scotland as Alvar Aalto’s work is to the Finnish.
It’s a traditional Scottish stone detail I saw for myself as a boy growing up in the Highlands, on every castle and fortified house, and on the flanks of the tower at Muckrach, ancient seat of the Grants of Rothiemurchus, built in 1598. This was my local castle just a mile from home.
The entrance to St Bride’s, I like to imagine, comes from a friendship that included travel in the Scottish Highlands, admiring the Scottish vernacular close-up, of a fevered conversation about a simple concept – the massive blind box, and how the application of simple, semi-traditional material detailing can make it all the richer.
St Bride’s is simply one of the finest buildings in Scotland.
Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.
In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.
There were grander unrealised plans.
Including an aerial asylum.
The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.
After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.
The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.
Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.
A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.
All we need now are tenants.
Piccadilly Plaza now contains the renovated Mercure Hotel it was formerly known as the Ramada Manchester Piccadilly and Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel; the refurbishment was completed in 2008.
The retail units famously contained Brentford Nylons.
The company was eventually sold at a knock-down price and the new owner did not think the name worth having.
The noisy upstairs neighbours were Piccadilly Radio.
The first broadcast was at 5am on April 2nd 1974, it was undertaken by Roger Day, with his first words to the Manchester audience: “It gives me great pleasure for the very first time to say a good Tuesday morning to you… Hit music for the North West…we are Piccadilly Radio” before spinning Good Vibrations.
It was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in the city, and went on to launch the careers of a host of star DJs, the likes of Gary Davies, Chris Evans, Andy Peebles, Timmy Mallett, Mike Sweeney, Pete Mitchell, James Stannage, Steve Penk and James H Reeve.
Waiting for a mate who worked at Piccadilly Radio we ventured down the stairs next door to get a drink and because of our clothes/leather jackets we were chucked back up the steps. We should of stood our ground like one of my mates who was told he could stay if he turned his jacket inside out, thinking he wouldnt do it, but he did and had a drink with his red quilted lining on the outside.
“Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.”
In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.
Even on the greyest days the Plaza was a beacon of Modernity.
Though sadly we eventually lost Bernard House.
However, City Tower still prevails as a mixed use office block, adorned east and west with big bold William Mitchell panels.
Which were to be illuminated by ever changing images, produced by photo electric cells – sadly unrealised.
So goodbye Piccadilly – farewell Leicester Square? – it’s a long, long way to the future, and we’re barely half way there.
While we’re in the vicinity take a quick trip up and down the car park ramp.
Notably the entrance to the Hotel Piccadilly was on the first floor, accessed by non-existent highways in the sky – sweet dreams.
Drew up a list of buildings, made plans – dream on.
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.
However, whilst on my 2015 cycle tour of the south west coast I arrived almost accidentally yet serendipitously outside Babbacombe Model Village.
A good place to visit as dogs are welcome and this is important to us. The models were very cleverly designed and each one is recognisable and very funny anecdotes and labels. It was much bigger than it looked but flowed easily and was fun and charming to walk around. There is also a free mini crazy golf room which makes a change to not charge for something like this and a joy to see. I really enjoyed myself and it is all so well maintained you can feel the passion of the people creating it.
I went in – how could I have done otherwise?
Many of the buildings reflect the areas’ Seaside Moderne styles, from the holiday chalets to the substantial Modernist Villa, plus all the up to the minute services and infrastructure one would expect in a modern model village.
The Maxwell Building and Hall forms the older portal to the campus site.
They were built between 1959 and 1960 to a design by the architect C. H. Simmons of the Lancashire County Architects Department.
In back of the Maxwell complex is the Cockcroft Building.
Sir John Douglas Cockcroft OM KCB CBE FRS 27 May 1897 – 18 September 1967 was a British physicist who shared with Ernest Walton the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 for splitting the atomic nucleus, and was instrumental in the development of nuclear power.
The concrete relief to the east fascia of the northern block of the building is now sadly obscured by the addition of intrusive infrastructure.
This incised block of limestone tiles laden with fossilised remains is a curious delight.
Just around the corner the Chapman Building.
This latter day piece of brutalism is buried within the campus of the University of Salford. It was designed by W.F. Johnson and Partners of Leamington Spa, as a lecture theatre block and gallery. It sits with its long axis running parallel to the railway behind. The series of grey volumes, occasionally punctuated by colourful floods of red and green trailing ivy, hang together in a less than convincing composition. The orientation and access to the building seem confused and detached from any cohesive relationship to the rest of the campus, but there is something perversely attractive about the right essay in the wrong language. The reinforced concrete building contained five lecture theatres, communal spaces, an art gallery, AV support areas and basement plant rooms. Following a major refurbishment in 2012, several additions were made to the exterior and its total concrete presence somewhat diminished. It still houses lecture theatres and a number of other learning and social spaces.
Across the wide and wider A6 are Crescent House and Faraday House – formerly home to the AUEW Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, ceded to the University in the 1970s
Let’s shimmy along to the former Salford Technical College site.
Now the part of the University of Salford, this grouping is probably the most significant work by Halliday Meecham during this period. The blocks wrap to almost enclose a courtyard and they step up in height towards the rear of the site. To the front is a lecture theatre block in dark brick. The multi-storey elements are straightforward in their construction and appearance and have had their glazing replaced. Perhaps the richest elements here are the three totemic structures by artist William Mitchell, which were listed at Grade II in 2011. Mitchell was actively engaged with the experiments of the Cement and Concrete Associations during the 1960s and produced a wide variety of works for public and private clients; other works regionally include the majority of the external art and friezes at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and the Humanities Building at Manchester University. These textured concrete monoliths appear to have an abstract representation of Mayan patterns and carry applied mosaic. They were made on site using polyurethane moulds. There is another Mitchell work hidden behind plasterboard in the inside of the building.
If you walk far enough away, you’ll find yourself right there.
The sea to your right, Bridlington to your left. You could even catch the Land Train if you are so inclined, I declined and walked wet streets, in ever eager anticipation of my first visit to:
A family run enterprise, tucked just away from the Yorkshire coast nestled in the village of Sewerby. Jan Whitehead and her team of willing helpers kindly allowed me to get a sneak preview of the village, as they prepared for the imminent Easter opening.
This one twelfth scale wonder is filled with everything you might wish to find in an idyllic village – but smaller and made lovingly by hand. Wandering its narrow streets, each tiny turn is a new and exciting surprise, an irresistible vista of diminutive figures, set in a cornucopia of architectural delights.
The trains always run on time, and the trawlers bob merrily in the harbour.
The wedding party remain forever almost snapped by the arched photographer, blink and they don’t move.
So step inside a world of wonder – I’ll be back when the sun shines, I promise.