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PICCADILLY BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTO GALLERY - All photos by Aidan O'Rourke
In 1991 during construction of Metrolink, the old concrete bus shelter along Parker St built 1958 was soon to be removed In 2002 an open green space has appeared - and a new concrete structure has appeared along Parker St
1998 Poorly maintained, trees overgrown, but still attractive 2002 The trees have gone Piccadilly is a wide open space
1999 Remains of an 18th century wall - Lewis's facade is being cleaned 2002 Out with the old wall and in with a 21st century one - Lewis's is now Primark
Sunken Gardens 1998 - overgrown trees, flower beds and a big wheel Walk-through fountain 2002 - an office block takes shape on the site of the big wheel
Public toilets Piccadilly 99 - the only new addition for years The same spot 2002 - catwalk across the oval - no trees
April 1999 - spring blossoms and flowers in the sunken gardens July 2002 - Sunken gardens filled in and not a flower to be seen
Statue of Wellington erected 1856 - 1854 facade to the right Wellington's patch is now a building site - He didn't quite manage a century and a half - Will he be put out to grass in one of Manchester's parks and forgotten about?
A grimy Queen Victoria statue - erected 1901 in the middle of the esplanade with modernist Sunley Tower, erected 60+years later A cleaned up Queen Victoria statue viewed from Sunley Tower - now with grass on three sides
360 degree panorama taken at the centre of the gardens 1999 Looking towards the centre of the gardens in 2002
The Berlin Wall at Bernauer Strasse in 1984 would fall five years later. The urban concrete wall resurfaced in Manchester in 2001. Indian Islamic-style architecture from 1910 with a superb wooden interior... destroyed in 2002.

 

Panorama of Piccadilly 1999 from Mosley Street corner - Lots of greenery Panorama of Piccadilly 2002 from Mosley St Corner - Lots of concrete!
Panoramic view in 1999 from the Metrolink stop over gardens and trees View from the Metrolink stop in 2002 - a panoramic view of concrete

Portland St end of Piccadilly Gardens in 2000 with the Portland Thistle Hotel - Despite neglect, echoes of Hyde Park London, Park Lane and the Dorchester Portland St end of Piccadilly Gardens in 2002 - buried under an office block - view of the 1854 facade will soon be obscured - echoes of pile drivers and sledgehammers!
 

EWM CONCLUDES: The place where I met up with my school friends in the 70's, where I came with my wife on her first visit to Manchester in summer 1994, and took photos next to the flower beds, the happy place where I saw the illuminated Christmas gnomes, the place depicted in 1960's photos in the Central Library Local Studies Unit, and LS Lowry's 1954 painting, has gone.

The contemporary-style new gardens have little charm, and co-exist uneasily with the historic facades overlooking the area, and the 19th century statues.

The fountains are are a positive feature, and Tadao Ando's concrete walls look good when lit up at night. But sacrificing one third of the Gardens for an office block has been too high a price to pay.

Having visited many public spaces in Europe I can state categorically, that the new Piccadilly is certainly not one of the most exciting.

I'll be monitoring developments over time, and keeping the memory of the original Piccadilly (photo, right) alive by showing images from the Local Studies Unit, as well as some of my own photos, to friends and visitors. I'm also going to make drawings and visualisations of my alternative plan for Piccadilly. I hope to have them ready by the middle of next year.

Whether the new Piccadilly turns out to be a planning disaster or not depends on how people respond to it in the coming months and years, particularly to the office block when it is completed in 2003. People should express their opinions by writing to the council, to the MEN letters page and sending their views to me for publication on this website.

All photos and articles ©Aidan O'Rourke

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