The Arndale Centre’s lofty lookout
Recent news that Zhuzhou, China had built villas on the roof of a shopping mall sparked excitement across the world with the concept being labelled as the future of urban planning, however, this future had already been realised, in 1981, on top of Manchester’s Arndale Centre.
The Arndale Centre from above, circa 1980
Cromford Court, known to tenants as ‘the podium’, was a housing association venture by Manchester City Council. In all there were 60 flats on the rooftops of the Arndale Centre
Photos by Jennifer Brookes.
To celebrate Lowry’s 125th birthday; an article about the Chapel Street area of Salford originally published in May 2012 as the introduction piece for Skyliner From the Other City, an alternative venue guide for annual music festival Sounds From the Other City.
Despite the obvious dereliction, beneath the surface Chapel Street is bustling. What it lacks in most everything you’d except from a city’s main throughfare, it makes up for with the vibrancy of its residents and visitors. On the face of things the street is barren but for the bricked up pubs and a constant stream of traffic; always passing through, and never stopping.
During the late 50s, to make way for redevelopment of the area, the facades of the independent businesses that stood here were saved and preserved as a sort of toy town. Named Lark Hill Place this ghost street
Last week I was asked to curate the Northern Spirit theatre company’s new project A Wondrous Place. The project is a collaborative piece from some of the best writers in the north of England and I am over the moon to have been chosen to be part of that. In the build up to a new show by Northern Spirit a collective of writers, whose own blogs and projects are fundamentally based upon a love for where they live, have come together to celebrate the north.
My week followed in the footsteps of many wonderful writers, some of whom I already followed with interest, including Natalie Bradbury of The Shrieking Violet and Dan Feeney of In a Town So Small.
The theme for my week was Cottonopolis: A Skyline Reimagined, a journey through the skyline of Manchester with architect Joseph Sunlight as head of the city’s planning department. I cover proposals that the city denied and buildings we demolished, but with Sunlight at the helm approving these visions and denying demolitions. It’s a fictional account of actual plans and buildings and it’s Manchester as Cottonopolis - a Chicago-inspired, noir novel of a city.
From Lemn Sissay’s series of poems adorning the walls and pavements through to the classical Ford Madox Brown murals at the Town Hall, but what other artworks lie in wait of discovery throughout the city? What about off the streets and into the everyday; the negative spaces where you spend so much time? There is almost always art in these functional buildings, only it’s not usually very good. Offices and art seem to exist in parallel universes to each other, with the best attempts often as depressing as a faded, mass-produced watercolour in a crass gold frame, strip lit for added nausea.
In The Midland Hotel, in the Wyvern Room, the walls are lined with Eadweard Muybridge photographs. Muybridge was fascinated with the locomotion of animals and was a pioneer in his field, capturing what the human eye could not perceive as separate motions. British born, but working mainly in California, Muybridge killed his wife’s lover and Phillip Glass produced an opera based on the story.
The Castle Hotel was once home to a mural of the former landlady; Kath Smethurst. The mural was created by Mark Kennedy, a prolific mosaic artist in Manchester but aside from the artistic merit of the piece it was the material used that really set this apart – the grouting was made from Kath’s ashes. Kennedy has used the same method for his mosaic of Bernard Manning on the wall of Manning’s Embassy Club in Harpuhey.
(You can hear me talk to Documentally about The Castle’s macabre mosaic, and other Manchester curiosities, for Northern Quarter Stories here)
Inside the Albert Hall, Manchester
Photos by Andrew Brooks
The Albert Hall and Aston Institute, built in 1910 by W J Morley, was home to the Manchester and Salford Wesleyan Mission, though today it stands empty awaiting renovation.
The ground floor was occupied as Brannigan’s bar for several years and many people have passed through these doors but did they realise just how ornate the building is, did they know about the organ one floor above that’s big enough for a dozen people to climb inside?
The building is vast, spread over four huge floors with the basement
Photos by Shirley Bainbridge
Stretford Arndale was renamed Stretford Mall in 2003 and modernised throughout, only it looks as though they missed a spot…
Set within Stretford Mall is the market square, still gloriously sixties in appearance though sadly dying in trade. But there’s more than just these units who are struggling on despite everything; there’s a mezzanine level that houses something of a time warp.
It was whilst stood admiring the textured frieze surrounding the market, a leftover of the 1969 decor that once covered the entire centre, that the mezzanine level above became apparent. It was like staring through a tear in the fabric of time; it wasn’t altered, it wasn’t hidden yet it wasn’t paid attention to either. Totally isolated and hidden in plain sight.
Looking at an archive image of that old interior still present here in the square there’s that tinge of glamour, the same tinge evident when looking back at Manchester airport when the departure lounge was framed by enormous Italian chandeliers (these chandeliers are now in various homes: one at
(photo by Jennifer Brookes. All other photos by Andrew Brooks)
St Philips Church is perhaps the architectural highlight of the city of Salford, its beautiful bell tower beckoning you in off the road to take a closer look. The building is unassuming yet classical and unlike any other church in the region.
The church was designed by Sir Robert Smirke in 1825 in a Greek revival style unique to the area, and taken from a design Smirke had done previously for St Mary’s Church in London.
Inside the church you’ll find a Renn and Boston organ, a rare example of British 19th century organ making with most having been destroyed or altered. Made in 1829, the organ has been restored twice, and now includes pipes taken from a dismantled organ from New Jerusalem Church on Peter Street, Manchester. It is regarded as the finest surviving example of Renn’s work.
There’s also something waiting to surprise you beneath the church, for down below is a crypt.
The crypt houses around 8 bodies though could hold many more. Three aisles run beneath
Somewhere along the Mancunian Way there’s a small piece of graffiti that reads ‘tup’ and nestled in the loop of the ‘p’ is a tiny hole. Take your headphones with you and you’ll be able to plug yourself into the wall and listen to a specially commissioned song.
Good art is effectively hidden within architecture all over the city, be it an accomplished mural in an office block or a priceless painting hanging in the backroom of a library, and this song by Manchester artist LoneLady (Julie Campbell) brings this catalogue of art lurking in wait of discovery beyond the visual.
The track is on loop for the life of the battery and is hermetically sealed within the Mancunian Way. Chances are as you read this it may well have lived out the life of the battery, having been installed since 18th June 2012 at the start of the RIBA Love Architecture festival.
Titled ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ and in association with The Manchester Modernist Society the music embedded into the base of the road serves as a sort of urban lullaby. The society themselves aim to inspire people about their built environment and this isn’t their first foray into audio installations having previously commissioned a musical telephone kiosk.
When the battery eventually runs out of steam then the piece will remain in place, serving as a sort of relic.
So take a stroll beside the concrete behemoth, out towards the slip-road to nowhere, and go and plug yourself in!
Update: the installation’s battery ran out on 23rd June 2012.
(photo from Skyliner’s Art in Architecture tour, by Gareth Hacking)
A guide to the venues of Sounds From the Other City 2012, featuring tales from a Chapel Street crypt, a time capsule, the smallest listed building in Salford, William Mitchell’s Minut Men and a very special wall!
Photography by Jennifer Brookes
Jennifer used lemon juice to partially destroy the film before developing.
Please click the image to read the brochure in full screen
The wonderful Documentally came to visit to help out with the Northern Quarter Stories project.
The project is about collecting peoples stories of the area through a variety of ways, many of which includes pub interviews, like mine. There are lovely beer mats distributed around the area with details of the project and how to contribute and a group of reporters will be out on the streets over the coming weeks.
He interviewed me at The Castle yesterday and you can listen to it below.
By a nicely-timed coincidence Mark Kennedy, the man who made the mural I mention during this, wandered into the pub and agreed to be interviewed too. Do look out for that on the audioboo channel that has been set up for the project here
Whilst the point of the project is to share stories from the area then I thought this is a nice opportunity for me to write about my most recent Northern Quarter story.
A few days ago whilst gazing at rooftops and sneaking around buildings I perhaps shouldn’t be in, I found some treasure.
For a short stretch of the city centre it’s possible to bypass the crowds and the traffic and to walk across several pedestrian areas and finally down a series of alleyways. In fact you can walk almost traffic-free from Victoria station all the way to Lloyd Street, and in doing so you might spot some rather unusual artwork.
To walk this route you begin at Cathedral Gardens, down Cathedral Street and New Cathedral Street then cut through St Ann’s Square. At the heart of St Ann’s Square stands the only surviving 18th century church in the city (celebrating 300 years in 2012), the tower of which is said to mark the geographical centre of the old city and the surveyor’s benchmark can be seen carved into the stone by the tower door.
The connecting road from the church to Deansgate was once known as Toll Lane as this is where the lord of the manor would collect tolls for the animals on their way to fair after they had gathered here and been pelted with acorns by the locals!
From the back of the church the route through the city continues in a relatively straight line from here. First you cut through St Ann’s Passage, built as a temporary home for the Corn Exchange and then you meet with King Street. In 1976 King Street became the first city centre street to be pedestrianised and it’s here that you find yourself opposite Boardman’s Entry.
photos by Andrew Brooks
These days a modern urban environment often makes it difficult to realise the origins of a town, of how it was formed, why its location was vital to its survival or even to properly step back and see the lie of the land. Stockport thrived because of the standstone cliffs it was formed around and there’s plenty of evidence of this all around you to this day.
At one particular location on the edge of town there’s a sandstone cliff face and if you’d peered through the trees here until very recently you’d have also noticed there was once a door.
That was until now - the doorway has been sealed up and what lies behind it is documented here for the very last time. This is Dodge Hill.
There are two things of interest on this aerial shot of Ship Canal House on King Street. The first is one you can see quite clearly from street level if you crook your neck enough, and it’s a rather grand sculpture of Neptune.
Neptune, being the god of water and sea, is clearly a symbolic choice for the premises but it’s also a practical one. Neptune’s three-pronged fork that he holds domineeringly above the street below is a rather fanciful disguise for the building’s lightning conductor. If lightning ever strikes the building it should hit the rod and be conducted to the ground through a wire rather than passing through the interior and risking fire.
The figure and sea-horses that surround it was said to be ‘the finest group of sculpture to be seen in Manchester’ and was designed by H R Bond with work carried out by Earp, Hobbs and Miller
Regardless of the craftmanship behind this lovely sculpture, it’s not actually Neptune that interests me, rather it’s what’s set back from the main street, just above the upper levels and visible on the aerial shot - there once was a little house.