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LOOKING FROM THE ARNDALE CENTRE CAR PARK, we can see the Urbis Centre on the right hand side of this panorama. The new glass-walled building appears as a modern counter-weight to the venerable old Cathedral on the left. Also visible next to the cathedral is the roof of the Corn Exchange, now Triangle, and on the right, the roofs of the houses built on top of the Arndale Centre. Directly north west about 12 miles (19km) away, is Winter Hill, and about five miles (8km) distant, the hillside at Clifton above the River Irwell.

EWM says: The Urbis Centre is an interesting newcomer to the city centre roofscape, but due to its relatively modest size, it doesn't overwhelm or block out other buildings.

THE URBIS CENTRE UNDER CONSTRUCTION in August 2001, seen from beside the Corn Exchange now Triangle shopping mall. We can clearly see the metal tracks which will take the lift to the fourth floor. The building has an interior structure of reinforced concrete pillars and floors - the double layered glass skin will soon be fixed onto this side of the building.

EWM says: Here we have an interesting view into the interior structure of the building, rather like a 3D architect's diagram. The remarkable and unique design of the building is clearly visible. By the way, the topiary scuptures on a sporting theme were removed from Exchange Square on account of a visit by Celtic football supporters.

THE URBIS CENTRE IN AUGUST 2001 has only been partially clothed with its exterior double layer of glass. The building is laid out on a lozenge-shaped plan, and a V-shaped southern end nudges into the space between buildings adjoining Corn Exchange, Triangle shopping centre on the left, and the Printworks on the right.

EWM says: Though this design appears new and revolutionary, there are many Victorian buildings in Manchester with round corners, so the Urbis Centre reiterates a classic building layout, but using new and revolutionary building materials.

VIEWED FROM STREET LEVEL, the Urbis Centre appears like a huge pre-First World War cruise liner - The closer you get to the bow, the more the sides recede until they are no longer visible, and the building appears like a narrow cylindrical tower.

EWM says: Buildings are inventive and inspiring when they make reference to things outside the here and now - in this case to ships, playing with effects of perspective and perhaps alluding to Manchester's status as an inland port.

THE URBIS CENTRE as it looked on 30 March 2002 is nearing completion. The exterior glass skin now envelopes the building. Scaffolding remains under the rooftop horizontal spike, but will shortly be removed.

On the left is part of the Corn Exchange, now Triangle shopping mall, and on the right is the facade of the Printworks.

EWM says: I have now deduced that the horizontal spike is actually a lightning conductor - very necessary as the top of the Urbis Centre is higher than all neighbouring buildings. I hope at some time in the future to capture a photo of lightning striking the Urbis Centre lightning conductor.

EWM says: THE URBIS CENTRE is scheduled to open on 27 June 2002 and now that it's almost a reality, it deserves our support. I'm sure that like a magnet it will draw in visitors from all over the region, the country and the world, and will have the same benefits for Manchester as the Pompidou Centre has for Paris. It won't be Manchester's Millennium Dome, as it's on a much smaller scale, it's at the centre of the city, and the entrance fee at £5 is affordable for a much larger number of visitors. It's true there are unexpected financial issues, but in the long term, the benefits will more than outweigh the costs. Well done Manchester City Council for having the vision and determination to make the Urbis Centre a reality. More info on the official Urbis Centre website

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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