Manchester’s most famous architecture

I love traveling to other countries and enjoying the architecture which is borne out of other cultures. (See Faris Mousa: More amazing architecture in Rome)

However, I also love my home city of Manchester and I am fortunate that it is filled with its own fantastic buildings which have emerged over the last 1,000 years. Travel is great, but as this great city proves, you don’t always have to go very far to find something new or inspiring.

Here are four of Manchester’s most famous buildings.

Manchester Cathedral

This origins of this cathedral can be traced back to the Saxons, but the building that stands today was constructed over the last few hundred years. Not only is it a beautiful site with much intricate detail, it’s also symbol of Manchester’s resilience: throughout its history it has survived attacks,bombings and plenty more, but it’s still standing strong.

Town Hall

Completed in 1877, Manchester’s town hall is a fantastic example of neogothic work. The clock tower hosts an impressive 23 bells, the largest of which is 8 tonnes and required great engineering minds to hoist into place. The town hall stands grand and proud in the city’s centre, providing a familiar backdrop for many iconic Manchester events, such as the world famous Christmas markets.

Victoria Baths

Manchester’s water palace is in the middle of a restoration project with no known end date. It hasn’t been used for its original purpose in more than 20 years, but the fact that millions has been spent working on the building, and that today it host events ranging from nightclubs to cinema screenings proves how well loved it is by the local population. The multicoloured brickwork facade, stained glass windows and tiled interior are breathtaking and I hope full restoration is completed before too long.

Urbis

The Urbis was built at the turn of the millennium and was one of the showcase pieces of architecture that proved the city was bouncing back from the 1996 bombing. It features a fully glass facade, which gives stunning views of the city for visitors, and a unique sloping design. It forms part of a large communal area which is popular with city residents, and to top it all, the building has hosted the National Football Museum since 2012.

An Architect Reflects on the Past Year

As another year – another decade – draws to a close, it’s interesting to ponder the exciting and unknown future which awaits us. But to best understand our role in the world, I think it’s important to reflect on our journey so far.

As architects, I believe we have a lot to be proud of. Some say modern politics is leaving us more divided than ever, but as an industry we have united to support some truly important causes.

The winner of 2019’s RIBA Stirling Prize, awarded to the top architecture project of the year, was won by a council run housing estate in Norwich. It’s unusual for such a ‘modest’ project to win the headline prize, but this one really resonated. It won because it was designed to foster community and to help its residents live greener lives.

In fact, this was a wider theme for RIBA this year: the organisation launched campaigns to both counter climate change, and to promote renovation over demolish/rebuild.

The world is a beautiful place and good architecture adds to it, but bad architecture can take away. And it’s great to see that RIBA is ensuring that we all do our collective best to build responsibly, leaving a healthy world for future generations.

Of course, there is still a long way to go. This is also true of Britain’s homelessness problem, which has grown every year this decade. (Faris Mousa: Homelessness is a growing problem and it’s our responsibility to help) Our most vulnerable people need our help, and it was great to see my hometown of Manchester making noise earlier this year when Andy Burnham announced new measures to help the homeless – and hopefully this inspires other towns and cities to do the same.

Unfortunately, Manchester missed its targets, but I do appreciate that they’re trying. It just goes to show how big the problem is, and how difficult it is to reverse the trend. In the meantime, please do consider donating to charities such as Crisis or Manchester’s own Mustard Tree who are doing what they can to help provide a roof and a warm meal for those in need this Christmas.

All the best for the New Year,
Faris Mousa.

Elements of a Great Modern Home

A new housing development which won the RIBA Stirling Prize for 2019 has been making headlines not only in industry magazines and websites but in mainstream news.

The Goldsmith Street housing estate in Norwich was a popular nomination and most experts predicted well in advance that it would be a clear winner.

I have written in the past about what makes a great family home (Faris Mousa: The Most Important Piece of Furniture in Any Home) so let’s look at what makes this an award winning development

Energy efficiency

Climate change is something which is affecting us all, and for which we all have a responsibility to address. Modern day architects must not only employ sustainable working practices, but also create buildings which are themselves energy efficient.

Goldsmith Street was built to Passivhaus environmental standards, which is considered the ultimate goal. This covered even the tiniest of details, from the angle of the roof designed so that it didn’t cast shade on a neighbour, to external letterboxes which won’t create draughts through the front door. Not only is this great for the planet, but it will save residents an estimated 70 on their energy bills.

Social harmony

The development contains 105 homes, and they have been laid out in a way that encourages social interaction. Isolation can lead to poor mental and physical health, but in this neighbourhood it’s easy for residents to get to know their neighbours. Plenty of green space and childrens’ play areas have been located away from roads, too, which means they’re safe from traffic.

Innovation

There will be many social housing projects built this year and next year, across a great number of councils, by a variety of architects. And the easy choice is to build something exactly like everything else that has gone before. But Norwich’s council members had the bravery and ambition to try something new, and Mikhail Riches Architects and Cathy Hawley had the ability and expertise to create something completely truly original. So by breaking from the norm, the two have created something which benefits the residents, shines a positive light on Norwich, and hopefully will inspire others to be a little bolder.