Woodward Court Woodward Street – Ancoats Manchester

“What’s going on?”

As Marvin Gaye so succinctly asked.

Why is there just one remaining tower block dancing unclad around Ancoats?

Let’s go back in time and see if we can find out – it seems that back in 1807 there wasn’t a Woodward Street to be found, the ever expanding industrial might of Manchester had not yet reached these particular green fields of Ancoats.

By 1824 it shows a fresh face to the world christened Woodworth Street, sparsely dotted with new development.

Almost fully formed in 1836 and renamed as Woodward Street, the area begins to accumulate the familiar domestic and industrial clutter of a burgeoning Victorian City.

By 1860 the street is fully formed and open for business.

Workers finding homes in austere and functional brick back to backs, typical of the period’s housing.

Fast forward to the early Sixties and the street is showing signs of age – the century old industries are already in decline, steady jobs, mills and factories gone west and east, well-worn housing looking terminally tired and in need of a little care and attention.

But wait what’s this coming around the bend?

The first wave of urban regeneration, post war optimism incarnate, a bright new shiny future – out with the old and in with the new, as Municipal Modernism stamps its big broad architectural feet all over Woodward Street.

Archival photographs from Manchester Local Image Collection

Our story is far from over, this optimism is short-lived the homes, houses and industry are swept away yet again, replaced with two story modern terraced housing and an all too obvious absence of regular employment – yet the tower blocks prevailed.

Former streets were over written and remain as poignant vestigial marks in the landscape.

Grand plans are made for their revival.

Paul Daly

Though their future was built on more than somewhat shifting and uncertain sands.

A tower block has been left lying empty for a whopping 18 years. The 13-storey building at Saltford Court in Ancoats has been unoccupied since Manchester council closed it in the 1990s. It was bought by top developers Urban Splash six years ago but residents have now hit out about it still being empty. Neighbours of Saltford Court say it has become an ‘eyesore’ and magnet for vermin since the firm bought it.

Manchester Evening News 2012

A large group of blocks stood tinned up and unloved, yet owned, for a number of years, victims one supposes of land-bankers, developers speculating on an even better return, as the warm waves of gentrification washed slowly over them, from nearby New Islington.

All but one was refurbished, clad and re-let.

Woodward Court was spared – set aside for the homeless.

A period piece surrounded by Post Modern and Revivalist pretenders.

Why not go take a look.

Covent Garden – Stockport

Last time I was here it was there:

Covent Garden Flats Middle Hillgate in Stockport.

A small but important group of post-war council houses – very much in an inter-war European manner, homes to a settled community of cheerful, chatty residents.

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The local authority tinned them up some year ago, ahead of a series of redevelopment proposals – last week that redevelopment reached its logical conclusion.

Demolition.

Whilst accepting the necessity for change, I also recognise the need to preserve what is best of the past, rather than replacing it with the present day architecture of cautiously consensual pastiche.

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nuvu living for the nouveau be-tartaned riche:

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So heavyhearted I circumnavigated the perimeter fence, recording forever that which was no longer there – their there replacing our there.

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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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Tudor House – Wakefield

You wouldn’t ever want a bad case of the cladding, the triumph of the expedient over the purist aesthetic. We all may wish to be warm, dry and free from unwanted ingress, whilst exercising a degree of discernment and restraint, regarding the manner in which we are clad.

In Wakefield and in local authorities throughout this fair land there seems to have been a distinct lack of discernment and restraint, regarding the manner in which modern tower blocks are clad.

Cloaking concrete in coloured surfaces better suited to Toytown than our town.

Four twelve-storey H-plan tower blocks built as public housing as part of the central area development of lower Kirkgate. The blocks rise out of other low-rise development. Each block contains 44 one and two-bedroom flats, providing 176 dwellings in total. The consulting architects for the development were Richard Seifert & Partners. Construction is of concrete frame with brick infill panels. The blocks were approved by committee in 1964.

Tudor House aka Lower Kirkgate Comprehensive Development area as was:

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Photographs Tower Block

Ain’t it funny how time and integrity slips away?

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Photographs Alan White Design

Gone the bold flat roofed, cuboid contrasting concrete and brick towers, whilst confusingly the ground floor retail development remains untouched.

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Margate – Arlington House

I’ll try anything twice.

So off I went to Margate, on a train, again.

Rushing out of the station agog, eager, looking for a long lost friend.

An impudent exclamation mark at the end of a rowdy Georgian row.

Arlington House.

A mad amalgam of angles, incautious concrete surfaces and glass.

Entranced, enchanted, we both stare out to sea and eye each other admiringly.

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Hove – Seafront Flats

The seashore seems ideally suited to tall well appointed private housing, this is the architecture and landscape of wealth and privilege.

Built and maintained in the finest sixties and seventies Modernist style and fashion, affording panoramic visits across the Hove Lawns to the sea, and the soft rolling hinterland of the Downs.

If you’ve got the dollar, you’ve got a room with a view, or two.

Brighton – Embassy Court

Embassy Court has always had a very special place in my heart.

Forty years ago as a young art student attending nearby Portsmouth Polytechnic, we were taken by Maurice Denis in a minibus to visit the modernist buildings in our locale, this was my first love.

Two days ago I returned to Brighton, sprinting spryly along the prom to meet an old friend.

We were ever so pleased to see each other after all these years, I walked around admiringly and smiled.

“Embassy Court is an 11 storey block of flats situated on the Brighton seafront on the corner of Western Street and the Kings Road. It was designed by the architect Wells Coates and completed in 1935.

It is amongst of the most outstanding examples of pre-war Modernism in the UK, it has a grade II* listed status and remains a major Brighton landmark. This beautiful, elegantly proportioned block contains 72 flats, with awe-inspiring sea views, is considered one of the coolest places to live in Britain.

Restored in 2005 after a long period of decline, Embassy Court is now owned by a limited company, Bluestorm Ltd., born from a Leaseholders Association which obtained the freehold of the  building in 1998.”

http://www.c20society.org.uk/botm/embassy-court-brighton/