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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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.