Sunday, June 05, 2016

Making post-war Manchester: visions of an unmade city

Over the last few months I have been working on a exhibition about planned - but unrealised - urban changes in the 1960s for Manchester. Drawing upon a fascinating range of original sources, plans and architectural models we set out to consider how Manchester city centre could have been transformed if a number of large-scale commercial, educational and entertainment redevelopment schemes had come to pass. The exhibition emerged from an architectural studio project lead by Richard Brook with a talented group of Masters students, working in collaboration with Dr Kevin Tan (MMU computer science game design) and the Manchester Modernist Society.   

The outline pitch for the exhibition is as follows: "During the 1960s a vision of Manchester was being drawn up by property developers and town hall planners that only existed in architects drawings and consultant’s reports and was never realized in concrete and steel. Manchester was booming and vast swaths of the city centre were scheduled for redevelopment for entertainment, shopping, education, office complexes and transportation. But as with many masterplans, only portions of what was designed were actually built. In this exhibition, for the first time, visitors will be able to encounter the 'unmade city' - the masterplans as they were intended to be."

The exhibition opened last Friday and runs for the next three weeks. It has been installed in the glass-fronted foyer of the Manchester Technology Centre right on Oxford Road. This building was formerly known as the 'National Computing Centre' and is an interesting example of a 1960s post-industrial development that planners hoped would help transform the city (and the country). The exhibition site is also within sight of the elevated section of the Mancunian Way, another potent example of the 1960s agenda for radical urban transformation of the city through large-scale transport infrastructure.

Some more detail on the free exhibition is given on the Manchester Modernist Society events page. At the heart of the exhibition are a set of interactive models of unrealised 1960s era redevelopment schemes for five different sites created by the student teams (supported by Kevin Tan). These are presented in computer game environment that visitors can explore. In addition to these 3d digital models, the exhibition includes a series of large visual panels explaining the five redevelopment sites and the various possible architectural solutions that were advanced but unrealised. There is also a nice physical architectural model of planned Manchester Polytechnic development and a cabinet displaying some of the original planning reports and brochures from the 1960s. To accompany the exhibition there is a free 60-page print catalogue full of architectural pictures and historical plans.

The production of the exhibition has been generously supported by architectural firms BDP and Hawkins\Brown. In particular, we are grateful to Bruntwood who have let us have the space in the Manchester Technology Centre for three weeks as well as funding support.


Exhibition location: Oxford House, Manchester Technology Centre, Oxford Road, Manchester, M1 7ED.

General admission: June 6th - 24th, 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday (and Saturday 11th June).


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