Jonathan Schofield enjoys modernist buildings, trees, lamp posts, pies and pints

Cellular love at 55 King Street

This is one of those buildings people pass by with scarcely a glance. Or if they do notice it they go ‘urgh’. That’s because 55 King Street aka Pall Mall Court is a sixties building and 'urgh' is an almost automatic reaction to structures of the period. 

Thing is Pall Mall Court is a really thoughtful office block by Brett & Pollen from 1969 originally for London Assurance Ltd. There’s something of a fly’s compound eye about the rows of cellular windows. It sort of resembles Liverpool’s Oriel Chambers from 1865 on Water Street. It’s Grade II listed and won awards way back when.

Now those Manchester saviours of sixties buildings, Bruntwood now Bruntwood SciTech’s plan is to turn the empty Pall Mall Court into a 90,000 sq ft innovation hub. Work has commenced for completion next year. It’s to be energy efficient with heat pumps, smart metering and management systems and net zero communal spaces (the latter is an odd phrase). The resulting building will follow the model in other Bruntwood conversions with serviced offices, co-working spaces and so on.

There will be a gym, of course, a lounge and a library. There won’t be a rooftop restaurant for once, although there will be a roof terrace for residents, but at last the little square to the west between King Street and Marsden Street will gain life and a coffee shop at the very least - see main image above.

Bruntwood SciTech is a consortium made up of Bruntwood, Legal & General, and Greater Manchester Pension Fund. The architect for the refurb and changes are Sheppard Robson. 

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The roof terrace at 55 King Street Image: City Press

Renold refurb in Little Brasilia

On to another scheme and Bruntwood SciTech are involved again as are the owners of the land, the University of Manchester. This is another Grade II listed sixties building, the Renold Building on the former UMIST campus. The architect back in 1962 when the Niemeyer inspired-structure was completed was W A Gibbon of Cruikshank & Seward. The eastern wall is mainly glass with pioneering angled windows folding in and out on themselves – see here for more on the architecture of the Renolds and the whole former UMIST campus.    

As with Pall Mall Court there will be co-working spaces, offices and café but there will be echoes of the former educational function with the inclusion of lecture theatres. There will also be events and exhibition spaces for community groups, artists and so forth. The conversion will be designed by Space Invader and will retain the long entrance hall mural from Victor Passmore in 1962 which is encouraging.

This is an important step in the huge plans for the whole former campus of UMIST and its £1.7bn conversion into ID Manchester, the proposed four million square foot ‘innovation district’. It’s a shame perhaps that so few of the original sixties complex look set to be retained. 

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The Renold Building Image: Confidentials

Trees and lamp posts

Albert Square is shaping up to be one of the best public spaces in Europe. Despite being up to two years before being fully open trees and lamp posts have arrived. The trees include ten semi-mature specimens comprising seven tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera), two Japanese maple trees, (Sophora Japonica) and one Foxglove tree (Paulownia tometosa). New lighting columns have also appeared with an entertaining design that ‘feature devices that can project themed images and patterns across the square’s light path, which will enhance the use of the space during events.’

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Albert Square's new trees and lamp posts Image: Confidentials
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The lamp post that can be used to enhance events Image: Confidentials

Founder’s Hall opens

One place that will benefit of Albert Square’s improvements is the re-imagined Duttons which has now become Founder’s Hall. The pub has been thoroughly improved and enhanced with a smart and sharp interior and a much-improved menu including cracking pork pies, black pudding scotch eggs, Lancashire rarebit, hotpot and so on. The name refers to John William Lees who founded Manchester’s oldest family brewery JW Lees in 1828. It’s started off really well for the pub too as trading was up 124% against the brewery’s budget in the first week and 56% up against Dutton’s last year as boss William Lees Jones pointed out at the formal opening night.

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Founder's Hall, total refit and all the better for it, good food too Image: Confidentials
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William Lees-Jones opens Founder's Hall with Bruntwood's Chris Oglesby to his right Image: Confidentials

Bridge Street/John Dalton Street chaos promised

Well, it’s not promised exactly but given the way the City’s traffic modellers are gleefully messing up traffic circulation in the city centre, it’s almost guaranteed.

Anyway, a consultation is taking place for improvements to Bridge Street and John Dalton Street. As the Council write: ‘We think these will address a number of issues in this area, which is currently dominated by private vehicles. It would mean wider footways for pedestrians, improved crossing places, fewer parked vehicles and would also include a review of 'street clutter'. There would be more room for bus passengers to wait for buses, more greenery (in the form of trees and sustainable drainage i.e. raingardens) improved footways, and resurfaced carriageways.’

We all agree with reviewing ‘street clutter’ although removing it would be better, wider pavements would be nice too, especially on Bridge Street. However, given the nonsense traffic ‘improvements’  on Deansgate which have contributed to permanent fume-filled rush-hour and weekend congestion on Quay Street, can we have confidence these changes will not make matters worse.   

Surely if the City Council want to improve pedestrian amenity on Bridge Street and John Dalton Street while not making the traffic worse they should remove the bus gate at the western end of Bridge Street so traffic can escape to Salford by that route rather than along Quay Street. They could still widen the pavements. The two councils of Manchester and Salford really need to cooperate to ease the terrible congestion on Quay Street.

People can have their say at two online events to talk through the proposed changes on Monday 4 March, at noon to 1pm and 6.30pm to 7pm. Email to ask for a link to join the meeting, saying which one you would like to attend. You can also comment online here by Friday 8 March.

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This is Quay Street parallel to Bridge Street; it reveals how 'traffic calming' measures are failing Image: Confidentials

Trafford Wharf improvements around MUFC

Forget Sir Jim Radcliffe's controversial notion of a Wembley of the North as a replacement of for Manchester United's faded Old Trafford Stadium, there's another plan being hatched in the area

A masterplan consultation led by Trafford Council is due to begin shortly to build 5,000 homes across 215 acres between MUFC, Manchester Ship Canal, Old Trafford stadium and Europa Way. The ideas also include more public realm, more workspaces and a greater food and drink offer, although the latter's well-catered for on match days if you like burgers. In other words the idea is to create a sort of modern village. 

It's a fifteen year plan. Trafford councillor Liz Patel, executive member fdor economy and regeneration, said: 

“We want to provide a world-class setting for Manchester United’s stadium and greatly improve the visitor experience to the area, making the most of the historical waterfront at Wharfside."

This is the masterplan

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Illustrative aerial image for Trafford Wharf proposals Image: Trafford Council

Buildings of all description to receive Emerald mosaics

Mark Kennedy, mosaic artist, wit and general good egg, is having a feast of his work exhibited across the city in an exhibition called The Irish Nation. Well known for his Afflecks’ mosaics and others at his beloved Manchester City he will be displaying much of his oeuvre each side of St Patrick’s Day up to 31 March. This is a free to view exhibition commissioned by Irish Mancunian, ‘an organisation that curates cultural events of Irish interest for Manchester audiences’. It's been a decade-long project in the making. Some of the mosaics have obvious Manchester links, Morrissey and George Best and others have none.

You can find Luke Kelly at Hallé St Peter’s, Oscar Wilde at QueerLit, Morrissey of The Smiths on 1st Floor at Smith’s Tribute in Afflecks, Katie Taylor at Koffee Pot, Eileen Gray at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, Sinead O’Connor at New Century Hall, Shane MacGowan at New Century Hall, George Best at the National Football Museum, Brendan Behan at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Seamus Heaney at the Portico Library, James Joyce at Manchester Central Library, Constance Markievicz at the People’s History Museum, John F. Kennedy at Manchester Science and Industry Museum, Samuel Beckett at 53Two, The Quiet Man at HOME, Phil Lynott at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), Bridget O'Donnell (Famine Mother and her children) on the side of the Thirsty Scholar. 

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George Best is at the National Football Museum Image: The Irish Nation
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Morrissey is at Afflecks Image: The Irish Nation
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Sinnead O'Connor is at New Century Hall Image: The Irish Nation
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Phil Lynott is at the RNCM Image: The Irish Nation

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