Manchester Walk #2

Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.

So said Horace Greeley, I beg to differ.

Here we are vaguely on the western side of Manchester, with very little by way of room, just acres of architecture – mostly modern.

Standing by Rodwell Tower 1965 Douglas Stephen & Partners, a highly appropriate high-rise exclamation mark at the end the Lazy S. Four distinct faces, facing four different ways, currently trading as 111 Piccadilly.

It can be seen here as the demolition takes place, preparing for a new arrival on the approach to Piccadilly Station.

Colonel Siefert’s Gateway House 1969 is born!

An extravagant concrete, steel and glass swish, both welcoming and waving farewell to the weary rail traveller. Changes of use have taken place, retail has been and gone, now a modern mash-up of grub and stuff, above her’s an Apart Hotel.

Sadly the planned moderne station never really arrived.

Moving on down the road a ways in search of an education, we encounter the UMIST Campus 1962-68 Cruikshank and Seward.

But first we hit a concrete, not brick, a concrete wall, a barrier with a barrier, encased in green metal mesh, shrouded in leafy trees.

Anthony Holloway Screen Wall.

Barnes Wallis Building

It’s shady shadowy stairway intact.

Renold Building

I’m a fool for an open glass-encased stairwell.

And a passageway Victor Pasmore Mural.

This is a maquette which is in the lobby of the Renold Building.

Turn around and there’s the Pariser Building.

Clad in merry mosaic.

The Maths and Social Science Block.

Seen here framed by the magnificent Mancunian Way

Gone is the low lying Chemistry Building – it’s mosaics now almost hidden in intemperate storage at the base of the Faraday Building.

Works continue with the preparation for the construction of the new £60 million Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre GEIC and the demolition of the Faraday Undergraduate Building and link bridge on the North Campus. 

The mosaic, `The Alchemist’s Elements’, in the entrance colonnade, has now been safely removed from the building and are being stored securely on campus until the building works are complete.

On completion of the GEIC in late 2017, the 4.5m x 3m artworks will be permanently reinstated within the site for visitors to enjoy for years to come.

The mosaics were created by Hans Tisdall a German-born artist, illustrator and designer with a distinguished career in 20th century Britain.  Following the Second World War, Tisdall became involved in the revival of public artworks within many educational and industrial buildings – one of which included the Faraday Building at UMIST.

Staff Net

As of last week this was not the case.

Faraday Tower.

The walkway has also gone walkabout.

Just about hanging on by the hem of its kilt is the Swinging Sporran and its delightful brick relief.

Reimagined by the marketing imagineers as Retro.

Happily the award winning Mancunian Way is still there, though partially shrouded in mysterious goings on.

Another great sadness is the closure of St Augustine Church 1967-8 by Desmond Williams & Associates at All Saints, without a priest for well over a year.

Though there are rumours of a change of use and this wall relief by John Brumby is still visible.

Onward and upward and slightly backwards into the world of modern information technology the National Computing Centre 1974 Cruickshank and Seward.

Currently accommodating a ground floor mix of retail and that most modern of architectural expressions – the container city.

Let the train take the strain for Hell is a City.

Martineau makes his way across the rooftops in pursuit of Starling. Looking down on Oxford Road station at the end of Station Approach off Whitworth Street.

Oxford Road Station W.R. Headley and Max Glendinning and structural engineer Hugh Tottenham, a Sydney Opera House in miniature sans the grand guignol.

Lets hot foot it to St Peter’s Square before Stanly baker fall off the roof of the Refuge – where Peter House 1958 Amsell and Bailey awaits.

A gently arcing poem in Portland Stone jam packed with rectilinear detail and interlocking volumes.

Archive material from Manchester Local Image Collection

Multiple links to Mainstream Modern

Manchester Walk #1

Leaving Port Street and the Modernists new HQ we find ourselves in Lever Street – home to Griffin House.

Several storeys of variegated concrete panels cladding and glass – a voluminous yet relatively low rise development of the 1960s.

1967

It has been updated with an extensive entrance, whilst otherwise surviving intact and still well used.

Around the corner to Great Ancoats Street and the former Daily Express Building.

Grade II* listed building which was designed by engineer, Sir Owen Williams. It was built in 1939 to house one of three Daily Express offices the other; two similar buildings are located in London and Glasgow.

Originally, it was possible for passers by to peer into the main hall to see the large newspaper printing press. When the building was converted during the 1990s, the glass was made reflective so outsiders cannot see the interior of the building. This has subsequently been removed as yet again the building is repurposed

Nikolaus Pevsner described the building as:

An all-glass front, absolutely flush, with rounded corners and translucent glass and black glass and a most impressive sight from the street, particularly when lit up at night.

1937/39 Manchester Evening News

The end of the paper’s print run saw the building used as office space, and partially converted to flats with further redevelopment work currently being undertaken, with a view to becoming a tech-hub.

Onward along Swan Street and a brief encounter with something of a rarity in functionalist modern Manchester – the sighting of two Art Deco buildings.

This now and happening pet shop.

And the former NATSOPA trade union offices – National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants trade union offices – the area once being alive with print and related industries, also no longer.

On the corner of Rochdale Road there stands the former CWS fresh fruit fish and veg offices and warehouse – we are on the very edge of Co-op land.

Sadly the CWS clock turns no more and the steel framed windows have suffered the indignity of uPVC replacement.

The Cooperative Wholesale Society dominated a whole swathe across the east of the city and beyond, encompassing manufacturing, banking and insurance.

The icing on the empire’s cake being the 1960s CIS Tower.

The Co-Operative Insurance Society (CIS) Chief Office was built between 1959-62. Its aim was to provide the company with a headquarters in the north comparable to anything in London. Operating from ten different sites in Manchester following the war, the company wished to consolidate their activities within a landmark building, and took advantage of a bomb-cleared site on Miller Street. The architect was Gordon Tait, of Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners, who was brought in to collaborate with the already appointed Chief Architect in Manchester, G S Hay.

CIS Tower was the largest office block to be built since the war, reaching 25 floors in height. The design was heavily influenced by a trip to the United States, which resulted in a taller, more centralised building that made use of curtain walling. The brief was for an open plan office building, to house 2,500 staff.

Twentieth Century Society

Currently under wraps is the CWS Redfern Building 1928 WA Johnson & JW Cropper – a delightfully functionalist brick moderne building in the northern European manner.

I do how however have a personal preference for the tower’s relatively diminutive neighbour New Century House and Hall – particularly John McCarthy’s concrete screen wall water feature.

New Century House was designed by G. S. Hay and Gordon Tait and constructed by John Laing & Son for the Co-operative Insurance Society in 1962. The attached New Century Hall has a capacity of 1,000 people. New Century House and Hall were listed in 1995 as Grade II as a good example of a high-quality post-war office building. It is considered one of the finest modernist towers in the United Kingdom alongside the sister building CIS Tower – It is described in its listing as:

A design of discipline and consistency which forms part of a group with the Co-operative Insurance Society.

I am told that the current work will see the building used as a music school and venue.

Let’s take a quick look at some more modern Modernism the Cheetham’s School Extension.

This building was designed to incorporate the Chetham’s Music School, the Academic School, an outreach centre, a 400-seat concert hall and a 100-seat recital hall. It sits on the site of a former car park which itself was created on a vacant lot left following the demolition of railway company offices.  This is the first stage of a project that will provide the school with 21st Century facilities.  The next stage will involve the demolition of the former Palatine Hotel and a number of other modifications that will improve access to the medieval Chetham’s Hospital and Library.

The architect Stephenson Bell says of the project that:

Our brief was to create a unique contemporary new building for the musical and academic teaching facilities, providing a state-of-the-art environment which will be a fitting platform for the students. The building itself will, alongside ongoing regeneration in Central Manchester, provide an iconic opportunity for the educational and cultural standing of Manchester to consolidate its position on the international scene.

Just around the corner we encounter the once two-toned towering tower of Highland House across the River Irwell in Salford.

The building was designed and built by Leach, Rhodes & Walker for the Inland Revenue, and was completed in 1966. 

The tower was built using the then innovative technique of using a continuously climbing shutter to cast a central core; pre-fabricated cladding was then lifted into place using a tower crane. This technique led to rapid construction, avoided the need for scaffolding, and allowed the lower floors to be occupied while building continued higher up. The combination was very cost-effective, but was not flawless by any means. On a windy night the windows of the building blew off, ending up in Salford Bus Station.

It changed hands in 1994 for £7.7 million. The Inland Revenue announced plans to move out in 1995 in an early example of a Private Finance Initiative, shortly afterwards the building was sold by London & Regional Properties to the Bruntwood group. Between 1998 and 2000 the building was reclad, converted to its current use and renamed, at a total cost of £4.5 million. In 2004, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, George Ferguson, said that:

The building, along with the Arndale Centre, was dreadful and should be demolished.

It currently seems to almost be a Premier Inn.

Almost instantly we’re back in Manchester and booking into the Ramada Hotel and exploring its riverside piazza and car park. Formerly Fairburn House the work of Cruikshank and Seward 1972.

Pausing to observe a mysterious ramp to nowhere.

Once connecting the office/hotel complex via a footbridge to the now defunct Shambles Square and its equally mysterious array of long gone retail outlets.

Downriver now to Albert Bridge House – an imposing block eighteen storey tower, concrete framed and stone clad – designed by EH Banks for the Ministry of Works, surrounded by lower outlying buildings – featuring a delightfully wavy roof, and an almost playful Corbusian service tower.

Look a little closer and you’ll see a delightful group of defunct letter boxes and a hidden mosaic – playfully tucked away above the doorway to the Assessment Centre.

Ian Nairn in Britain’s Changing Towns, believed it to be:

Easily the best modern building in Manchester, and an outstanding example of what good proportions and straightforward design can do.

Just across the way is Aldine House 1967 Leach Rhodes Walker – the extruded cast concrete curvy windows echoing those of Highland House.

Now there’s just enough time to pop into Besty’s nearby boutique and pick up some fab mod gear.

All archive photographs Manchester Local Image Collection

Sheffield Walk

To begin at the beginning high on a hill overlooking the city – Park Hill.

Park Hill was previously the site of back-to-back housing, a mixture of two and three storey tenement buildings, waste ground, quarries and steep alleyways. Clearance of the area began during the 1930s.

Following the war it was decided that a radical scheme needed to be introduced to deal with rehousing the Park Hill community. Inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith under the supervision of J. L. Womersley, Sheffield Council’s City Architect, began work in 1953 designing the Park Hill Flats.

Construction began in 1957 – officially opened on 16 June 1961.

The complex remained structurally sound, unlike many system-built blocks of the era, and controversially was Grade II* listed in 1998 making it the largest listed building in Europe.

A part-privatisation scheme by the developer Urban Splash in partnership with English Heritage to turn the flats into upmarket apartments, business units and social housing is now underway.

Plan for Sheffield 1963

I’ve been here before and again, visited pubs that don’t exist – The Parkway, Scottish Queen, Link or Earl George are all long gone.

Let’s go down town.

Take a look at Elements Fire Steel Brian Asquith’s work unveiled on May 10th 1965 at the former Westminster Bank – subsequently sited here on the Sheffield Hallam campus. He was also responsible for the sculptural work in the Peace Gardens.

Onwards to the Co-op’s former Castle House Store.

Grade II Iisted  Co-operative department store described by Historic England as  ‘1964 by George S Hay, Chief Architect for CWS, with interior design by Stanley Layland, interior designer for CWS. Reinforced concrete with Blue Pearl granite tiles and veneers, grey granite tiles and veneers, buff granite blocks, glass, and brick.’

The original branch was destroyed in the Blitz, to be replaced by a temporary prefabricated shop.

Seen here in Sean Madner’s wonderful photographs.

Vulcan by Boris Tietze commisioned by Horne Brothers 1961 for their head office building No. 1 King Street. Glass fibre on a metal armature the 8 foot high figure holding a bundle of metal rods.

Off to court – Sheffield Magistrates Courts of 1978 designed by B Warren City Planning Officer and Architect, along with the adjacent Police Headquarters of 1970. Described by the Pevsner guide as – coherent in design if not particularly loveable.

Under construction 1977

1989

Passing the Graves by City Architect WG Davies 1929-34, with a friendly nod to inter-war Modernity. Intended to form one side of an unrealised civic square proposed by Patrick Abercrombie in 1924. The exterior carved work is by Alfred and William Tory.

Visualisation by Geo Daniels

There were major exhibitions in both 1945 and 1963 illustrating the plans down up for the redevelopment of the city.

1945

1963

Off to the shops and the former Cole Brothers Stores by York, Rosenberg and Mardall, clad in their trademark white tiles opened in September 1963 – currently trading as John Lewis.

1969

Tucked around the corner my go to guy for up to the minute cast concrete public art William Mitchell.

Along The Moor to the Moorfoot Building of 1978 by the Property Services Agency, former Manpower Services Commission HQ – now home to council offices.

Under construction 1977

Crucible by Judith Bluck located outside the Manpower Service Commission Building, commissioned for the Property Services Agency of the Department of the Environment in 1979. It is a large bronze-coloured plastic fountain sculpture. The artist referred to it as an exploding crucible.

Finishing up at the renowned Moore Street Power Station

Electricity substation. 1968 to designs by consulting architects Jefferson, Sheard and Partners, Sheffield, led by Bryan Jefferson, in association with the Regional Civil Engineers’ Department of the CEGB North East Region. Contractors, Longden & Sons Ltd, Sheffield. Reinforced concrete frame with board-marked finish with formwork bolt marks, construction and daywork joints emphasized, concrete floor slabs, blue engineering facing bricks, cladding panels of Cornish granite aggregate.

St Mary’s RC Church – Denton

Duke Street Denton Manchester M34 2AN

I remember you being built.

I remember our visit with the Manchester Modernists in 2015 – arranged by Angela Connelly and Matthew Steele of Sacred Suburbs

I popped by to see you yesterday – a truly remarkable structure set amongst the terraced housing of an unremarkable street.

The foundation stone for the present building laid by Bishop Beck in August 1962. He returned to bless and open the church on 25 June 1963. The new church was built from designs by Walter Stirrup & Sons – job architect Kevin Houghton, at a cost of about £60,000. The church is notable for its dalle de verre glass, by Carl Edwards of Whitefriars.

The church is a very striking and characterful building with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof rising in peaks on four sides, with clerestory lighting in the angles, that on the west side jutting out to form a canopy over the entrance. It was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘wildly expressionist’.

Taking Stock

I suggest that you do the same and pop by to see St Mary – Our Lady of Sorrows soon.

Sheila Gregory Hair Stylist – Manchester

142 Oldham Road Failsworth Manchester M35 0HP

I’m in a different world:

A world I never knew, I’m in a different world.
A world so sweet and true, I’m in a different world
.

A world of rollers, pins, grips, hair dryers and drying hair.

A world permanently waving within itself.

My thanks to Sheila – sixty years a stylist and her customers for allowing me into their world for a short time – a privilege and a pleasure.

Little seems to have changed here within – on the corner of Oldham Road and Mellor Street.

Let’s take a little look.

Shelia’s certificates of 1962 – so proudly displayed.

Leyland – St Mary’s Church

It never fails to surprise, turning the corner of a somewhat anonymous suburban street to find:

A building of outstanding importance for its architectural design, advanced liturgical planning and artistic quality of the fixtures and fittings.

Broadfield Drive Leyland Lancashire PR25 1PD

The Benedictines came to Leyland in 1845 and the first Church of St. Mary’s was built on Worden Lane in 1854. The Catholic population was small at this time, but had grown to around 500 by 1900. Growth was assisted by the industrial development of Leyland and after the Second World War the town was earmarked as the centre of a new town planned in central Lancashire. By the early 1960’s, the Catholic population was 5,000. Fr Edmund Fitzsimmons, parish priest from 1952, was a guiding force in the decision to build a large new church of advanced liturgical design, inspired by progressive continental church architecture of the mid 20th century.  The church was designed by Jerzy Faczynski of Weightman and Bullen. Cardinal Heenan blessed the foundation  stone  in  1962  and  the  new  church  was  completed  ready  for  its consecration and dedication by Archbishop Beck in April 1964.

Stained glass by Patrick Reyntiens.

Pink brick, reinforced concrete, copper covered roofs, zig-zag to main space and flat to aisle. Circular, aisled plan with projecting entrance and five projecting chapels.

Central altar. Entrance in large projecting porch with roof rising outwards and the roof slab cantilevered above the doors, its underside curving upward.

Large polychrome ceramic mural representing the Last Judgment by Adam Kossowski occupies the width of the porch above the two double- doored entrances.

Brick rotunda with projecting painted reinforced concrete chapels to left and right, of organic round-cornered form.

Folded radial roof above main space, leaning outwards to shelter triangular clerestory windows. Circular glazed light to centre of roof, its sides leaning outwards, culminating in a sculpted finial of copper or bronze.

Internally, sanctuary is floored in white marble, raised by a step, and the white marble altar is raised by three further steps.

Fixed curved timber benches are placed on slightly raked floor.

`Y’ shaped concrete aisle posts, designed to incorporate the Stations of the Cross, sculpted by Arthur Dooley.

Above these the exposed brick drum rises to the exposed, board-marked concrete folded roof. The aisle walls comprise thirty-six panels of abstract dalle-de-verre stained glass, totalling 233 feet in length, by Patrick Reyntiens, mostly in blues and greens. The theme is the first day of Creation. Suspended above the altar is the original ring-shaped light fixture, and also Adam Kossowski’s ceramic of Christ the King.

Further original light fittings are suspended above the congregation.

The font is placed in the narthex, in a shallow, marble-lined depression in the floor. It comprises a concrete cylinder with an inscribed bronze lid.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, with its rising roof slab, contains a green marble altar with in-built raking supports.

Behind it is a tapestry representing the Trinity, designed by the architect J. Faczynski.

Text from Taking Stock

Many thanks to Father John and the members of the congregation for the warm welcome that they extended to us on the day of our visit to their exceptional Grade II Listed church.

William Mitchell – Newton Heath

On meeting an old friend in Manchester – following previous encounters in Coventry, Salford and Liverpool

Following a lead from Neil Simpson I cycled along Clayton Vale and emerged on Amos Avenue where the flats came into view.

I was in search of an an averaged sized totemic concrete municipal public art pillar – similar to the example to be found in Eastford Square.

It belongs to a time when Municipal Modernism was very much in vogue – the provision of social housing along with the commissioning of murals, sculptures, mosaics and tiled reliefs.

There has been some discussion regarding its authorship – it may or may not be the work of William Mitchell – both Skyliner and The Shrieking Violets have tried to find an answer.

Inevitably my only concern is art over authenticity – does it move you?

Let’s just take a little look.