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.

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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

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Eastford Square Collyhurst – Slight Return

I’ve been here before and after.

After now seems further away, forever awaiting redevelopment – waiting.

No more Flower Pot Café and a warm welcome from Lee and the lads.

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Nearly nine years on – the shutters are down and nobody is home, save for the Lalley Centre – offering food, support and care to the community.

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Though Sister Rita Lee has now move on to pastures new.

The homes and shops remain resolutely shut, un-lived in and unloved, though the City plans to re-site the resident sculpture, the residents remain absent without leaving.

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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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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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Coventry – Precinct

Coventry city centre is a city centre, comprised of several interlocking post- war facets, realised over a thirty year period. This later addition the Bull Yard, the work of Arthur Ling and Terence Gregory, city architects and planning officers.

It incorporates pedestrian walkways, retail, civic and car parking facilities with a crowded unease and grace. Much of the original detail survives, though not unusually, some more recent additions detract from the integrity of the scheme.

The site is graced by two major works by William Mitchell – the concrete facade and interior of the former Three Tuns public house.

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And the sculpted panels on Hertford street.

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So we are left with a series of spaces that now seem slightly adrift, particularly the City Arcade, as both the earlier and more recent developments in the city compete for clients and customers.

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To explore is to discover a work continually in progress, or regression, as the forces of heritage, commercial development, and civic planning pull each other this way and that.

There is an initiative for redevelopment for the area yet to find a satisfactory resolution.

Take a look.

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William Mitchell – Liverpool

To wander the streets with a broad smile, open heart and eyes, is to enter into an unwritten contract with the unexpected and inexplicable.

Chance encounters with old, new or familiar friends.

Imagine my surprise, when for the first time ever I unexpectedly came upon these William Mitchell reliefs on Hope Street, whilst walking aimlessly away from Lime Street.

That sense of surprise has never diminished, my spirits lift and my smile broadens to a cheeky grin, my pace quickens in ever so eager anticipation as I approach.

Wrapped tightly around the low, low waist of the former Federation House – big, bossy and very, very beautiful – though at times obscured by more recent architectural intrusions.

Public Sculpture of Liverpool – Terry Cavanagh 1997

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The original raw concrete is now awash with washes of off-magnolia exterior emulsion.

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Hughes and Willet were seemingly less amazed or amused, the opinion of the Aztecs, or for that matter the Neo-Aztecs, is sadly not a matter of record.

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I remain impressed by the impressed concrete relief, a convincing addition to a sharp functional modern office block, all of which have not dated disastrously as soon as the fashion supporting it has collapsed.

Treat yourself take a walk, surprise yourself once in a while.

Aztec bars were withdrawn shortly after their launch in 1967.

The Aztec race was all but wiped out following their disastrous encounter in 1519 with the Conquistadors.

The William Mitchell reliefs prevail to this this day, as of last Sunday.

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