2017 redesign for Bootle Street (St Michaels) – My initial reactions

Hodder Architects model St Michaels

Model of Bootle St / St Michaels proposal. On the right: Architect Stephen Hodder MBE chatting with a member of the public.

In 2016, plans for the Bootle Street site (St Michaels) were unveiled and I was horrified, along with many others. My reactions are in this article.

On Wednesday 12 July 2017, a new vision for the site was presented at Manchester Central Library. Manchester-based Hodder architects have taken over the project and they have started again from scratch. I was relieved and encouraged by what I saw, but I still have some reservations.

The police station façade and pub are to be retained, though the syagogue will be demolished. The interaction with the streets on both sides is much improved and the two dark towers have been replaced with a single glass skyscraper that has been moved further away from the town hall and rotated by ninety degrees.

This change is intended to reduce the impact on the surrounding area, but there is still an impact!

I believe that in Manchester’s Victorian inner area, the roofline should be respected and there should be no tall buildings. This is the policy in Paris and Dublin and I believe it is right for the inner part of Manchester city centre, around the town hall.

I accept the arguments against keeping the Reform Synagogue and I understand why its users would prefer to have a new facility. I hope it will be properly documented for the future before it is demolished.

The most encouraging thing for me as a long-time heritage campaigner is that they have listened and responded to peoples’ reactions and criticisms. There has been a dialogue and as a result, the plans have been changed. People have had an impact.

The input of Historic England has had a big influence on the project. Their advice has been extensively taken into account.

Manchester Shield are to be commended for their tireless campaigning, which has produced a result.

It’s a great feeling to know that the police station façade and the Abercromby will not now be lost. I look forward to seeing how both look as part of a new development.

Bootle St Police Station

Bootle St Police Station

I see the police station façade as a monument to the work of the police in past decades. To destroy it would have been to blot out their memory.

But the height and dimensions of the tower still give me cause for concern. On the city centre model, it’s by far the tallest structure in the central area.

The plans are going to be developed further and there will be another exhibition later in the year. I look forward to seeing it.

But there is one important point I would like to make. Drawings, photographs and models are not adequate to give a realistic impression of how the development will look when completed.

I would like to see the architecture presented as a 3D visualisation. At the next exhibition there should be a computer and a 3D VR headset for use by visitors.

I would like to be able to move around the development and view it from all angles. I’m a fan of virtual reality, we have the HTC Vive system at home. The technology is well developed and has an important use in projects like this one.

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Aidan O'RourkeAidan O'Rourke has been active in photography and online media since 1995. He has documented the development of the local area in his Eyewitness website (1997-2005) and as a contributor to books, publications and the Manchester Evening News. He runs photography walks in Manchester and Liverpool.