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Manchester’s Architecture: Highlights


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There’s something to admire for every design enthusiast in the city of Manchester. From Gothic and Roman to Modernist buildings, there is a spectacular range of architecture styles. A large percentage of Manchester’s buildings date back to the 19th century. There are also monuments and sculptures, such as the Albert Memorial, which has become iconic in the city. Below are examples of the city’s finest structures.

The Daily Express Building is a grade II listed building and was designed by Sir Owen Williams. The building has many of the classic Art Deco features, such as rounded corners and a contrasting clear and black glass wall. The structure took inspiration from Streamline Moderne, a type of Art Deco architecture. Built in 1939, Williams took on the role of both architect and engineer.

Construction had to take place in stages so publishing could continue without interruption. Not one issue was missed over the construction period. The building is considered an Art Deco masterpiece. Williams’s building had a profound influence on British architect, Sir Norman Foster. He said: “I was very taken with the Daily Express building, for example, from the Thirties, wonderfully curved with black glass.” The building was converted into offices when the printing press left the building in the 1990s. Last year, private clients of Metis Real Estate Advisers bought the building for £10.5 million. There are now plans to transform the building into a creative workspace.

The area around St Peter’s Square is home to many of Manchester’s greatest buildings. One structure that stands out is Manchester Central Library, which recently reopened following a £50 million refurbishment. The circular design of the building was loosely derived from the Pantheon, Rome. It was designed by E. Vincent Harris. The structure has a pitched roof that appears to be a dome from street level. However, this is only a surrounding roof. The dome you can see from inside the building is actually a separate, concealed dome. The library opened its doors in 1934 after four years of building.

During construction, the locals were very intrigued by the shape of the building. The structure was called various names, such as the Corporation Wedding Cake and St Peter’s Square Gasometer. Harris had been selected as the architect when he won the competition held for the design of the new library and extension to the Town Hall in 1926. John Harris, a historian, described Harris’ work as having ‘a creative and original modern spirit.’ In 2014, it was named building of the year. This great building won the prize at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Property and Construction Annual Dinner.

In recent years, Gateway House and the surrounding area has fallen into poor condition. A multi-million-pound redevelopment of Piccadilly Station and the area around the station has been proposed. It will complement the planned construction of the High Speed (HS2) railway line to Manchester.

Commissioned by the Peel Group and designed by Chapman Taylor and Gillespies, MediaCityUK is a 200-acre property development in Salford. It houses more than 200 companies, including the BBC, ITV, Bupa and SIS. The regeneration of the Salford Quays site has been more than 30 years in the making. It was revamped with several sustainable features and is the first project in the world to become a BREEAM accredited ‘sustainable community’. MediaCityUK was built with construction materials that reflect the aesthetic of the original site. These include steel, cement, natural stone and wood. The landscape is designed for the pedestrian and the buildings create a fresh public space. Phase two of MediaCityUK is already underway. Taylor is leading the £1 billion expansion plan, which will see the project double in size over the next ten years.

Manchester has always been a city of great architectural works and developments. Remnants of its past when the city traded and produced goods still exist, but today, it’s a modern, thriving metropolitan. Its vast array of architectural styles gives the city a unique quality. The architecture of Manchester is woven into the city’s character, diversity and history.

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