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NORTHCLIFFE HOUSE, former offices and printing plant of the Daily Mail in the north of England, built in 1931, is - I understand - about to be demolished. The date is 26 March 2002, and scaffolding has already enveloped the base of the building, and is about to extend to the top of the tower. Northcliffe House has stood empty for many years, but the distinctive rocket-shaped art deco corner tower remains one of Deansgate's major landmarks

EWM SAYS: It is sypmtomatic of the failure of contemporary planning that this remarkable tower is apparently about to disappear from Deansgate. The city's two other former newspaper headquarters, the Daily Mirror/Printworks and Daily Express buildings have both been successfully converted for new uses. This building, arguably the most distinctive and spectacular of the three, should have been maintained and celebrated.

NORTHCLIFFE HOUSE is seen here from the other side of Deansgate at rooftop level. We have a clear view of the tower which is typical of a style of art-deco influenced architecture popular in the early 1930's. We can see the strong resemblance to Sunlight House on the left, built around the same time. Sunlight House had major structural problems and probably would have been demolished if it hadn't been listed.

EWM says: Northcliffe House is symbolic of Manchester's now forgotten American heritage. The style is strongly influenced by 1930's New York skyscrapers, such as the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, though it's a lot smaller. The tower would look great floodlit, with coloured lights inside. Shaped like a rocket, it's interesting and inspiring because it makes reference to things outside the here and now - in this case to space travel and the future. No contemporary piece of architecture will be able to replace this link with mid-20th century Manchester.

THE PREMIER LODGE HOTEL on Lower Mosley Street is seen here from the rear, looking up from Oxford St. What we see here is typical of the work of contemporary architects: Use of plain brick, regular geometric forms with overlapping rectangles, selective use of stone cladding and generally a sober, calculated, mathematical arrangement of structures. On the right is part of Peter House, recently mooted for demolition, but now covered in scaffolding and being cleaned and renovated.

EWM says: As far as contemporary architecture is concerned, this is probably as good as it gets - The best aspect of the today's buildings is the thoughtful and restrained use of materials and the rigid use of horizontal and vertical lines. With its curved balconies, this building also has echoes of a cruise liner - I wonder if this was deliberate. But in general, the problem with most contemporary buildings is their lack of eccentricity or daring. Unlike buildings of the past, they make no reference to architectural styles or eras outside the time they were built. In fact, most of them look like they were designed by a computer, resembling the CAD/CAM visualisations used to design them.

THE HACIENDA is Manchester's most famous nightclub - even though it's nearly five years since it closed its doors for good. The club opened in the 1980's in a former industrial building on Whitworth Street West. The adjoining Roundhouse served as the offices of Factory records. This building probably dates from around the turn of the 20th century, a boom period in Manchester. The photo shows the Roundhouse as it looked in 1999.

EWM says: This is one of the most distinctive and pleasing facades in Manchester, with its salmon-coloured bricks, rooftop balustrade and a frontage characterised by gentle curves. Manchester's former Hacienda is a major symbol of Manchester. It stands welcoming drivers on the main street into the city centre from Princess Road A5103 to the south.

IN JANUARY 2002 developers Crosby Homes unexpectedly demolished the Hacienda Roundhouse facade, with the permission of Manchester City Council. A new apartment building is to be built on the site

EWM says: I could not believe it when I opened the Manchester Evening News and read about the destruction of the Roundhouse. Even without its Hacienda associations, this was an integral part of Whitworth Street, a street that's strongly characterised by the styles of Manchester's post-Ship Canal boom period of 100 years ago. Manchester has lost another symbol of its greatness. Tourists coming to Manchester after seeing the film '24 Hour Party People' will have nothing to photograph when they come to the site of the famous night club. They probably got away with it because Tony Wilson asserted 'go ahead and demolish it'. He may have helped to instigate the Hacienda, and probably has some painful financial memories of it, but among the '24 hour party people' - the people who made it happen - I reckon that most of them today would rather it hadn't been demolished.

THE PALACE THEATRE on Oxford Street was once threatened with demolition and has had structural problems. Fortunately, the theatre is now well-maintained and is one of the busiest and well-used places of entertainment in Manchester. In March 2002, the musical Miss Saigon is drawing audiences from all over the north of England.

EWM says: The Palace Theatre is great - it's what Manchester is all about.

THE PALACE HOTEL stands on the corner of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street, on the opposite corner to the new Whitworth West apartment building. The building was formerly the headquarters of Refuge Assurance and was built in stages around the turn of the 20th century, during Manchester's post-ship canal 'boom' period. Here we see the Palace Hotel at dusk seen from the entrance to Oxford Road Station, captured at 2 minutes past 7 on the evening of Wednesday 27th of March 2002. The night, like the day it followed is cloudless, and there's a full moon (yes, slightly enlarged in Photoshop!)

EWM says: Recently I had a very vivid dream in which the whole of Manchester had been demolished and was a gigantic building site - Everywhere, everything had been flattened, Piccadilly, Mosley Street, Portland Street, nothing was recognisable, new concrete structures were starting to appear all around. Then I saw an old church - I didn't recognise it - it was in black and white - actually I was looking at a photo from the Central Library Local Studies Unit. I raised my camera to try and take a photo of the church, then I woke up in a cold sweat. On how many more mornings will we wake up to find that familiar landmarks have x, to be replaced by faceless contemporary structures?

THAT'S ALL FROM THIS UPDATE of Eyewitness in Manchester. More photos and articles will appear shortly. All photos and articles ©Aidan O'Rourke

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