The ‘Tower of Light’ is part of the council’s new low-carbon heat network

This striking new 40-metre chimney is the centrepiece of a proposed new energy system to be built close to Manchester Central… and Confidential reckons it's visually superior to most of the city's new tall buildings.

Constructed of stainless steel in a shell lace structure, the ‘Tower of Light’ is made from tailored ultra-light 3-6mm laser-cut sheets that are curved and welded together to create a strong, stiff surface.

Highly reflective polished steel reflectors will move ‘in a wave like motion’ in the wind deflecting sunlight during the day, while at night LED lights directed at the reflectors will create a scene of ‘moving light’.

The elaborate flue, designed by architectural firm Tonkin Liu alongside structural engineers Arup, is part of a scheme put forward by Manchester City Council to provide low-carbon heat and electricity to a number of council buildings in the ‘Civic Quarter’ – including Town Hall, Manchester Central and the Central Library. 

The council has bagged £2.87 million of government funding to support the scheme - which includes a main energy centre and a 2km network of underground pipes - in collaboration with sustainable energy suppliers Vital Energi. 

Chimney Manchester Central Energy  Network Tower
The striking chimney at the centre of Manchester Civic Quarter Heat Network

The design comes at a time when many in the city interested in such things are questioning whether Manchester’s increasingly soaring skyline is bold enough. 

Recent Confidential articles discussing the city's developments have prompted comments such as 'Oh good another boring grey glass box' and 'Eyesores! Just tenement blocks of the future'.

Such people are looking to architectural work around the world in cities such as London (The Shard, The Gherkin), New York (30 E 31, 56 Leonard) and even Milan (Bosco Verticale) and wondering: why not here in Manchester? 

Money. Financial viability. Return on investment. Still, should a lack of funds mean a lack of creativity and variety? Is all we deserve more big, dumb, soulless boxes? 

This design may be a humble chimney, and ok the base looks a bit crap, and yes you may not be surprised to find Gandalf on top stroking his staff, but at least it's bold, pioneering, innovative. At least it's not just bloody boring.

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