Mitzi Cunliffe – Owen’s Park #2

293 Wilmslow Rd Fallowfield Manchester M14 6HD

We have of course been here before visiting Mitzi Cunliffe and her work – Cosmos

Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe January 1st 1918  December 30th 2006

This time we are taking a peek around the back.

Having passed by on the top deck deck of the 42 on my way home to Stockport, I espied an extension of the sculpture to the rear of the tower.

I vowed to return!

Fighting through extraction units, wheelie bins, hoppers, plus a disused and disabused vacuum cleaner, I found myself in the narrow service area, where I did my best to get back from the wall, hard against the chain link fence.

The things you do.

For some much needed light relief, air and open space I revisited the front face of the tower.

Leeds University – Roger Stevens Building

The Roger Stevens Building 1970 – by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon for Leeds University South Campus is designated at Grade II

The building represents the high point of their Leeds University work.

Architecture: the building is an outstanding and individual design with bold external shapes and carefully designed interiors

Planning: the internal spaces are the result of extensive research on the requirements of the university and introduce innovative and influential features such as individual doors into the lecture theatres, and external links intimately with other buildings on the campus by means of multi-level walkways

Intactness: despite the changing requirements of universities, the building has remained largely unchanged, proving the success of its design

Group Value: the building provides a fitting centrepiece to the group of university buildings on the South Campus at Leeds, also recommended for designation.

Historic England

I was asked by the Leeds Modernists to put together a walk which avoids the the Roger Stevens Building, so I did just that.

That didn’t stop me visiting the site on the day of my visit.

This is what I saw:

Tony Holloway Sculptural Wall – Manchester

Sculptural wall and sound buffer – 1968 by Antony Holloway in collaboration with architect Harry M Fairhurst.

Concrete approximately 68 metres long and between 4.5 and 6 metres high – Brutalist style.

Grade II Listed June 10th 2011 – Historic England

The only structure on the former UMIST site, now part of the extensive University of Manchester estate.

Regularly visited on our Manchester Modernist walks, along with his nearby architectural panels.

I have even ventured as far afield as Huyton in search of other exemplars.

This is work of the highest order and importance.

It sits by a busy London Road, behind an intrusive green steel fence, slowly acquiring a green patina – as moss and lichen attach themselves to the well weathered concrete.

Receiving occasional visits from the errant urban tagger.

It deserves much better – a lush grassed apron, discrete public seating, regular tree maintenance – respect.

We do not suffer from a surfeit of significant mid-century public art – its guardians should straighten up and fly right.

Right?

New Face In Hull

And lo it came to pass – I came to Hull.

Again.

Guiding a group of willing Modernists on a walk.

We were there at the behest of Esther and Leigh, gathering to say farewell to Alan Boyson’s Three Ships, as it transpired we were there to celebrate its reprieve, following their campaign for listing.

Over a million tesserae glowed in the low winter sun – so did we.

As Helen Angell read her poem – Christopher Marsden and Esther Johnson recording the performance for posterity.

The Three Ships are attached to a former Cooperative Store – complete with a formerly working Cooperative Store clock – where we meet at four minutes to six – forever.

We had previously encountered Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.

And this Festival of Britain style functionalist council building.

Onward to the Queens Gardens the almost filled in former Queens Dock – forever fourteen feet below sea level.

We encounter Ton Liu’s Solar Gate – a sundial that uses solar alignment to mark significant times and dates in Hull. The super-light innovative two-shell structure is place-specific, responding to pivotal historic events and to the cultural context of its location in Hull’s Queens Gardens adjacent to the ancient site of Beverley Gate.

Carved stone panels Kenneth Carter 1960 – Ken’s art career began as an inspiring teacher, first at his alma mater, Hull College of Art, and later as principal lecturer at Exeter College of Art.

A number of decorative fountains featured in the ponds; those at the eastern end designed as part of the sculptured panels of 1960, by Robert Adams, described by Herbert Read as belonging to: 

The iconography of despair. Here are images of flight, of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear.

Top of the shop William Mitchells relief – time to pause and reflect.

Paying homage to Frederick Gibberd author of the College and Queens Gardens scheme.

En passant catching a glimpse of this splendid non-functioning water feature.

Off on the bus to St Anthony and Our Lady of Mercy just off Beverley Road.

More of which here.

A swift walk around the corner for a swift walk around the University of Hull campus, first encountering the Gulbenkian Building.

And a brief encounter with the Brynmor Jones Philip Larkin Library.

Thanks again to Esther for pointing out this delightful owl – the work of Willi Soukop

My life was never planned, it just happened.

Ellen Wilkinson Humanities Building – The University of Manchester

I don’t usually walk this way – so I walked this way.

I discovered the rear of building, a building formerly only known from the others side, when seen from Oxford Road.

Whilst making my way from The Gamecock to elsewhere, I serendipitously discovered the other other side.

The Humanities Building now named the Ellen Wilkinson Building.

This Building Design Partnership scheme pre-dates Wilson Womersley’s appointment as master planners for the Education Precinct but exists harmoniously with the later series of buildings. This is most likely due to the method of development before any ‘grand concept’. The incremental expansion of the University, following WWII, was largely dictated by the progress of compulsory purchase orders; this group was no exception. At the planning stages, the lack of a masterplan led to organising the wings of the buildings in an open, orthogonal arrangement. This would allow expansion in a number of directions, according to the next available site in ‘the dynamic situation’. The result was the creation of a small courtyard flanked by two five-storey blocks and a two-storey structure. All three buildings use the same pink-grey concrete. The plastic qualities of concrete were explored in both cladding and structural panels and the textural qualities exposed in the bush hammered columns, to reveal the Derbyshire gravel aggregate. The sculpted and moulded panels on the two-storey block and on the gable ends of the larger blocks were designed in collaboration with William Mitchell. The only other materials in the external envelope were the windows of variously clear and tinted glass. The window modules were set out against a basic geometry in three standard patterns and applied across the façade. This resulted in a clever interplay of vertical and horizontal expression. 

Mainstream Modern

Ellen Wilkinson was born into a poor though ambitious Manchester family and she embraced socialism at an early age. After graduating from the University of Manchester, she worked for a women’s suffrage organisation and later as a trade union officer. Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Wilkinson joined the British Communist Party, and preached revolutionary socialism while seeking constitutional routes to political power through the Labour Party. She was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East in 1924, and supported the 1926 General Strike. In the 1929–31 Labour government, she served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the junior Health Minister. She made a connection with a young female member and activist Jennie Lee. Following her defeat at Middlesbrough in 1931, Wilkinson became a prolific journalist and writer, before returning to parliament as Jarrow’s MP in 1935. She was a strong advocate for the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War, and made several visits to the battle zones.

During the Second World War, Wilkinson served in Churchill’s wartime coalition as a junior minister, mainly at the Ministry of Home Security where she worked under Herbert Morrison. She supported Morrison’s attempts to replace Clement Attlee as the Labour Party’s leader; nevertheless, when he formed his postwar government, Attlee appointed Wilkinson as Minister of Education. By this time, her health was poor, a legacy of years of overwork. She saw her main task in office as the implementation of the wartime coalition’s 1944 Education Act, rather than the more radical introduction of comprehensive schools favoured by many in the Labour Party. Much of her energy was applied to organising the raising of the school-leaving age from 14 to 15. During the exceptionally cold weather of early 1947, she succumbed to a bronchial disease, and died after an overdose of medication, which the coroner at her inquest declared was accidental.

Wikipedia

So here we are now – a significant building, named for a significant figure.

I wandered around, pale painted rectangular reliefs abutting darker rectangular reliefs. Strict window grids at a variety of heights. Warmer rounder rounded reliefs to the east, contrasting with their orthogonal cousins. A surprising courtyard contains a diminutive but charming concrete sculpture and an almost hidden exterior spiral stairway.

Sometimes it pays to get almost lost.

Salford University

So here we are hard by the River Irwell, Peel Park and the A6.

The Royal Technical Institute, Salford, which opened in 1896, became a College of Advanced Technology in 1956 and gained university status, following the Robbins Report into higher education, in 1967.

A new dawn – fired by the white hot heat of British Technology – including the unrealised demolition of the Victorian College, Art Gallery and Museum buildings.

B&W images courtesy USIR Archives

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.

Mainstream Modern

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.

Mainstream Modern

More about the:

Minut Men

Shopping City

High Street Estate

Flemish Weaver

Woolpack

All Saints – Grosvenor Square Manchester

Once upon a time there was almost nothing, as there often is.

Green fields, sylvan glades and a pleasant park in Grosvenor Square.

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Then all of a sudden, at the heart of the Square sat All Saints Church.

Underneath Manchester’s All Saints Park is a hidden history – an estimated 16,000 bodies. For this was the site of a former Victorian Cemetery, set up to cater for the parishioners of All Saints.

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All Saints Burial Ground officially opened on Wednesday 19 April 1820. The first interment was that of twenty-one-year-old Fanny Knowles, who lived on London Road. Her funeral was conducted by the founder himself, Charles Burton. It would be another month before the next interment took place. In the first year burials were slow with only 55 interments, however, by 1851 the number had increased to over 600 per annum. 

Michala Hulme

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Bombed in the Blitz the damaged structure was demolished – and a play area established which lasted until the 1980s

MMU Visual Resources 

The whole area having been a centre of housing, education, entertainment, commerce, public services and worship, was becoming the fiefdom of first the Polytechnic and subsequently the Manchester Metropolitan University.

But formerly there were peoples’ homes here.

Then the 1960s saw a huge programme of slum clearance in Manchester and whole communities across the Square and nearby Hulme were moved, rehoused in a thoroughly modern milieu.

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Shops came and went.

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Paulden’s magnificent store was destroyed by fire in 1957

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Rightons haberdashers has survived though no longer haberdashing, having been amalgamated into MMU.

One day On The Eight day moved a little to the left

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The Manchester Municipal School of Art was built in Cavendish Street in 1880–81 to the designs of G.T.Redmayne.

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The fascia has been retained but the name has not been changed to protect the innocent.

Next door the Chorlton on Medlock town hall still has its portico in place, the adjacent Adult Education building has been surgically removed.

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Richard Lane, the architect of the Friend’s Meeting House on Mount Street, designed the Chorlton-on-Medlock Town Hall on Grosvenor Street.  It continued in  that role from 1831 until 1838 when Chorlton-on-Medlock became part of the city of Manchester.  In the years that followed it was used by the local community for a variety of functions but the redevelopment of the area meant that the local population diminshed and the building became redundant.  In 1970, the interior was removed, a new structure added to the rear and it became part of the Polytechnic which became the Manchester Metropolitan University.

The Fifth Pan African Conference was held there between October 15th and 21st in 1945. Ninety delegates from across Africa, Europe and the Caribbean, attended the meeting and among the delegates were a number of men who went on to become political leaders in their countries including: Hastings Banda, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo and Jomo Kenyatta.

Manchester History

ormond 1972

Former Chorlton Poor Law Guardian’s HQ then Registry Office, now the Ormond Building of Metropolitan University – and at the far right edge St Augustine RC.

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The Manchester Ear Hospital on Lower Ormond Street, shortly before being transferred to Manchester Royal Infirmary. Most of the building was demolished, but the facade retained as part of MMU’s Bellhouse Building.

To the right the Presbyterian Church.

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Cavendish Street School

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The memorial stone on the front of the school, laid on June 17th, 1908,  declared that it was the Forty Seventh Municipal School.  Strangely, it seems that it was called the Cavendish Street School despite the fact that it wasn’t on Cavendish Street.

Manchester History

It was subsequently utilised by the Polytechnic sculpture department – then demolished to make way for something else of an educational nature.

Some or all of our social and architectural history has been overwritten, lost or swept aside by the tide of history.

Though on a dark snowy night you can still make out the bright red corporation buses,  passing by in a dark cloud of diesel.

Room on top.

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Archive images Local Image Collection

Brambell Building – Bangor University

Sited on Deiniol Road Bangor, the 1970’s laboratory building of the University is often cited as the ugliest building in Britain.

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Erchyllbeth y flwyddyn posits Mr Madge.

It was never going to win that many friends in a city of Victorian brick and stone.

The University along with the GPO have dragged Bangor kicking and screaming into the Twentieth Century, dotting the landscape with post war architecture – though try as a I might no record can be found of the Brambell Building’s history or authorship.

Suffice to say that it has survived the slings and arrows of cultural and local vocal criticism and continues to function as a scientific research centre of some standing.

Still standing.

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And as an addendum the adjacent and equally surviving Chemistry Tower seems to have weathered the winters of discontent.

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Minut Men Totems – Salford

The three concrete totem sculptures of 1966 by William Mitchell, which stand in the courtyard of the Allerton Building, University of Salford, are recommended for designation at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic Interest: as a good representative example of the commissioning of public artwork as an integral element of the design of new higher education colleges and universities in the post-war period, here succeeding in imbuing a distinct identity and image on an otherwise relatively plain complex.

So it seemed appropriate to cycle to Salford early one sunny Saturday morning, in an otherwise relatively plain manner in order to see the three totems.

William Mitchell was a leading public artist in the post-war period who designed many pieces of art in the public realm, working to a high artistic quality in various materials but most notably concrete, a material in which he was highly skilled, using innovative and unusual casting techniques, as seen in this sculptural group. He has a number of listed pieces to his name, both individual designs and components of larger architectural commissions by leading architects of the day.

Historic England says so, they loved them so much they listed them Grade II.

I loved them so much I listed them lovely, especially in lowish spring light, set against a clear blue sky and framed by the surrounding academic buildings.

Further info here on Skyliner

Go take a look.

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Sheffield – Arts Tower and Library

I’ve never ever been here before – my thanks to the Sheffield Modernist Society for arranging the visit, part of a walking tour of the city, the first of many, one hopes.

You can find them here http://www.modernist-society.org/sheffield/

Or possibly simply bump into them, casually walking around Sheffield and environs.

The Arts Tower is an exciting amalgam of Manchester’s CIS Tower, Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building and itself. A sleek slab of steel and glass, occupying a prominent site with views across Sheffield’s seven hills.

On a sunny Sunday in early April the adjoining library was alive with studying students and Modernists, attracting the odd, odd look, as we stopped and stooped to snap the odd period detail or two. It has retained much of its original character and features, deliciously elegant, almost edible chairs, some signage – and a clock.

Though the seven is mysteriously missing.

It was opened by TS Elliot.

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On 12th May 1959 – it was a Tuesday.

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The Arts Tower 12 Bolsover Street in Sheffield,  belonging to the University of Sheffield and opened in 1966. English Heritage has called it

“the most elegant university tower block in Britain of its period”. 

At 255 feet/78 m tall, it is the second tallest building in the city. It is also the tallest university building in the United Kingdom.

Designed by architects Gollins, Melvin, Ward & Partners, construction of the tower started in 1961 and lasted four years. 

Entry to the building was originally made by a wide bridge between fountains over a shallow pool area in front of the building. This pool was eventually drained and covered over when it was found that strong down drafts of wind hitting the building on gusty days caused the fountain to soak people entering and exiting the building. 

The building was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in June 1966; it has 20 stories and a mezzanine level above ground. As its name suggests, the building originally housed all the University’s arts departments. Circulation is through two ordinary lifts and a paternoster lift, at 38 cars the largest of the few surviving in the United Kingdom.

A bridge at the mezzanine level links the tower to Western Bank Library. This building was also designed by Gollins, Melvin, Ward & Partners—the two buildings are intended to be viewed together, the Arts Tower and Library are Grade II* listed buildings.

So if you have a penchant for a tall slab with an adjoining library, set in expansive parkland on the perimeter of a dual carriageway – go take a look.