Mitzi Cunliffe – Owen’s Park Manchester

Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe January 1st 1918  December 30th 2006

American born, resident of Didsbury Manchester, sculptor and designer, responsible for, amongst other things, the BAFTA mask.

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Her first large scale commission was two pieces for the Festival of Britain in 1951. One, known as Root Bodied Forth, shows figures emerging from a tree, and was displayed at the entrance of the Festival. The second, a pair of bronze handles in the form of hands, adorned the Regatta Restaurant. She created a similar piece, in the form of knots, in 1952 which remains at the School of Civic Design at Liverpool University, along with The Quickening in the rear courtyard.

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Cunliffe developed a technique for mass-producing abstract designs in relief in concrete, as architectural decoration, which she described as sculpture by the yard. She used the technique to decorate buildings throughout the UK, but particularly in and around Manchester.

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Particularly this example of four modular panels named Cosmos, set in the wall of the student halls of residence in Owens Park, Fallowfield, Manchester.

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All Saints & Martyrs – Langley

 

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All Saints & Martyrs Rectory, Wood St, Middleton, Manchester M24 5GL

We had the pleasure to visit All Saints & Martyrs on Saturday 7th July 2018 as part of an Art and Christianity – Manchester Modernists Society bus tour.

We could not have been made more welcome by The Reverend Canon Philip Miller – Vicar of Langley and his team, many thanks for their warm hospitality.

Set on the Langley Estate, one of many developed by Manchester Council as overspill social housing, the church serves a large community to the north of the city.

The architect was Albert Walker of Leach Rhodes Walker – this was the first church that they had built, having previously specialised in shopping precincts.

Leach, Rhodes and Walker had involved Geoffrey Clarke RA with their earlier new church building for All Saints, Barton Road, Stretford. (1957) here his contribution was chiefly a large stained glass window depicting the Trinity. LRW continued to collaborate with Clarke in their church projects, in the years following at Langley. In a letter to the church at the time he wrote: “Start saving now for a new West End Window – only £10 p.s.f – for the greatest window in the North…. I have just done some windows I’m rather pleased with..”

The church is an imposing angular structure, its height possibly determined by the treasure within – The Langley Cross.

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Consecrated in 1964, All Saints and Martyrs is home to the Langley Cross. This unique structure, which adorns our east wall, is the work of internationally renowned artist, Geoffrey Clarke RA, who has won reputation by his contributions to Coventry Cathedral.

The sculpture itself is 37 feet high and about 20 feet wide at the extremities of the transverse shaft and made of cast aluminium metal.

This is work of national and international significance.

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The church is lit from the west by a large yellow and white window, formed of French stained glass. Though seriously damaged over time, it has subsequently been repaired and forms an imposing counterpoint to the facing cross.

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To the right of the main entrance is a delightful chapel, illuminated by a large stained glass window.

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And in addition a charming period light fitting.

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To the right of the altar and cross are pierced stained glass windows.

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And to the left the sculptural organ pipes and further pierced stained glass.

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The church has retained much of its original furnishings.

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The roof is formed of intersecting concrete beams and coloured blocks.

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The adjoining ground floor space was once used for an overflowing congregation, it has retrospectively been partitioned and serves as a social meeting area.

It was here that we were so generously treated to tea and cakes.

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And given the opportunity to view examples from the church’s extensive archive.

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The building is not without its problems – the ingress of water and the cost of maintaining the structure require outside assistance, through grant aiding, fund raising and donation. We should all make every effort to ensure that All Saints and Martyrs survives intact for generations to come.

Here is a building of great distinction, housing public art of the highest quality, built at a time when the ethos of nothing but the best for all was commonplace.

I can only thank Phil once again for his warm welcome and wish he and his parishioners – nothing but the best for the future!

If you have the opportunity, go and take a look for yourself.

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John Lewis Mosaics – Milton Keynes

I was lured here, siren like, by an un-purchased eBay postcard – which precipitated a virtual four colour process printed journey around the shopping precincts of the UK.

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It only seemed appropriate to finally arrive at MK Central in real life, by train from Stockport – walking at last wide-eyed and expectant, along the whole length and width of Midsummer Boulevard to centre:mk

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation began work on the Shopping Building in 1973. It was to be the largest building of Central Milton Keynes. It had a total length of over one kilometre and a maximum width of one hundred and sixteen metres . It was built at the highest point in the New City. The architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Christopher Woodward, who had been significant architects at the MK Development Corporation; and the engineers were Felix Samuely and Partners. The shopping area was opened on 25th September 1979 by Margaret Thatcher. The building’s sleek envelope accommodated one hundred and thirty shops and six department stores, arranged along two parallel day-lit arcades, each eight hundred meters long and planted with sub-tropical and temperate trees.

A big bad Miesian box of glass and steel that goes on forever and forever.

At the very far end of forever is the John Lewis store, to the right of the entrance there are a series of tiled panels – these are possibly the work of Lucienne and Robin Day

Way back when, when brown was the new brown, brown still is the new brown.

Fresh and crisp and even.

Bobbing up and down precipitously on low marble walls, from amongst the sub-tropical and temperate trees, I bring you these thirteen tiled panels.

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Working so close up and personal at altitude, photographing such large pieces in confined spaces, it’s not until you arrive home that you discover that together they spell:

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What a delightful surprise!

London Road Fire Station – Manchester

London Road Fire Station is a former fire station in Manchester, England. It was opened in 1906, on a site bounded by London Road, Whitworth Street, Minshull Street South and Fairfield Street. Designed in the Edwardian Baroque style by Woodhouse, Willoughby and Langham in red brick and terracotta, it cost £142,000 to build and was built by J. Gerrard and Sons of Swinton. It has been a Grade II* listed building since 1974.

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Despite its listing and prominence, opposite the rear corner of Piccadilly Station, this honeyed and red ochre delight has suffered nought but the indignity of abandonment since its closure in 1986, changing hands as quickly and venally as a worn deck of cards

The finest fire station in this round world stands empty.

 

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St George’s Shopping Centre – Preston

Once upon a time the future was shop-shaped and utopian, the Modernist reliefs a welcome relief from post-war doom and gloom, public decorative art was off the ration for good, or so it seemed. Small retail units, housed small local operators, their shiny well-washed fascias, glowing with graphic pride and diversity, slab serif and decorative script the order of the day.

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Architects J Seymour Harris and Partners envisaged a brave new water-coloured open-aired world for the grey austerity-tinted folk of Preston.

And lo it came to pass and underpass – the future was here yesterday.

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Get off the bus on Fishergate and walk right on in.

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The shopping centre opened on 22 March 1966 as St George’s Shopping Centre.

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It was originally an open air centre, and was roofed over during refurbishment in 1981. It was further refurbished in 1999.

In May 2004, when The Mall Company took over the centre, they were greeted with an ageing shopping centre. The shopping centre was rebranded as The Mall, and a massive development scheme was planned. Small stalls, main shops, cafes, restaurants, toilets, and escalators were overhauled.

In March 2010, the shopping centre was acquired by Aviva Investors for £87 million. In September 2010, The Mall was rebranded under its original name St George’s Shopping Centre.

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So welcome back to today – stripped of distinctive decoration, covered in and given the international sheen of absolutely nowhere at all.

In intemperate template for the future.

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Archival images from the Preston Digital Archive and Peter Reed.

 

Mottram Street Flats – Stockport

A post-war northern town, facing the problems of bomb damage, poor quality housing, and the pressing need for new homes.

In 1963 there seemed to be space and the will to build, the site at the centre of the image flanked by ageing Victorian terraces and industry.

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Soon to become the Mottram Street Development.

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Back in 1965 these were the highest housing tower blocks in Greater Manchester.

The work of borough architects John Rank and Clifford Fernley.

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1960’s Photographs from the Stockport Image Archive

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1980’s photographs from The Tower Block

Typically they incorporated concrete street furniture, sculptural and decorative detail, in keeping with the age.

Like many other developments of the period they have subsequently been clad, fenced, painted and secured beyond recognition.

There was a raised concrete play area, of which nothing has survived.

A little of their original character however has prevailed – a William Mitchellesque fallen obelisk, along with some panelling and planters.

Curious to see public art behind bars

– would that they were removed.

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Pallot and Collins Murals – Bexhill on Sea

Could there be a more moderne town?

Bexhill on Sea, blessed with the delightful De La Warr Pavillion.

Plus the Pallot and Collins murals inset into the wall of their local branch of Sainsbury’s.

The third such public sculpture I have had the pleasure to visit following trips to Newcastle and the now defunct BHS in my hometown of Stockport.

Henry William Collins and Joyce Millicent Pallot have a very special place in my heart, their lives’ work together gracing the Festival of Britain, GPO Tower and Expo 70, along with other retail outlets in Southampton, Gloucester, and Colchester. A distinctive style of bas relief in impressed concrete, ceramic terrazzo and simple modern motifs, drawn from local history and imagery.

Take a look around.

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