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THINGS ARE HAPPENING in and around Manchester's Millennium Quarter, that's the area around the Cathedral, Chetham's School, Exchange Square and the Urbis Centre. The Urbis Centre is the Museum of the Modern City, a bold and futuristic building full of exhibits on the theme of the modern city - or at least, it will be when it opens later in 2002. The wedge-shaped Urbis Centre is echoed by another glass structure with a sloping roof just two minutes away at the bottom of Deansgate. Both buildings are designed by the same architect Ian Simpson. Let's take a walk around the Millennium Quarter and see how things are looking in January 2002.

A FUTURISTIC ALL-GLASS STRUCTURE has appeared on Corporation Street. We are standing next to the Co-op bank, looking along Corporation Sreet towards Exchange Square. Next to a grimy but characterful Victorian building, a wall of blue-green glass rises up like a cliff face from street level. The roof of this bizarre but strangely beautiful building is at an angle, like a ski-slope. At the very top of the building a large needle pokes horizontally into the sky.
This is Manchester's amazing and ground-breaking Urbis Centre, museum of the Modern City, sponsored by Manchester City Council and designed by Ian Simpson Architects.
EWM asks: What is the significance of the needle? Why is the roof at such a daring angle? Were the architects and the City of Manchester right to place a building from a science fiction film in the midst of Manchester's oldest quarter?

THE URBIS CENTRE roof climbs steeply from just above street level up to a point overlooking the new Exchange Square and the rest of city centre Manchester. Here we are looking from Old Millgate, just next to Victoria Station and Chetham's School. The Urbis Centre was commissioned by Manchester City Council, and designed by Ian Simpson. A distinctive feature of the building is the roof, installed by Chester-based company Varla UK.
EWM says: The roof looks like a launch ramp for UFO's. I can imagine them being prepared for take off at the bottom, then shooting out over Manchester at 4000 mph. Alternatively, this could function as a ski slope like the one in Rossendale.

THE URBIS CENTRE is seen here in January 2002 just a few months from completion. The Urbis Centre stands on the site of the Lancaster Arcade, demolished in the early 60's. In the distance we can see the Arndale Tower, and further away to its left, Piccadilly Plaza Sunley Building.
The Urbis Centre is surrounded by mostly traditional-style buildings: The Corn Exchange (Triangle), The Printworks, Chethams School, Victoria Station and others.

EWM asks: Is this a bold juxtaposition of old and new, symbolic of Manchester's dynamism and capacity for self-renewal, or is it a crass piece of municipal mis-planning, a new Millennium Dome in the making?

WE ARE STANDING IN FRONT OF MANCHESTER CATHEDRAL on Victoria Street, looking towards Deansgate. Once a busy junction of five streets overlooked by the statue of Cromwell, this point in the city centre was transformed by 60's and 70's redevelopment, and once again today by the rebuilding of the city centre.
On the left we can see the framework of the new Shambles West retail development, and behind it, the nearly completed tower of No 1 Deansgate. These new buildings are on the site of the old Shambles West development, developed in the 1970's and partially demolished after the bomb. To the right of Deansgate, the 1970's buildings remain, including the Ramada Renaissance Hotel, upper right.
EWM says: Let's not forget Manchester's magnificent Victoria Buildings, lost during WW2, used to stand where the steel framework and No1 Deansgate tower are now. On the right, at the bottom of Deansgate was an ornate hotel building demolished in the 1960's. In the distance, half way down Deansgate we can just make out the distinctive art deco tower of Northcliffe House, which is to be demolished in 2002 as part of the Spinningfields development.

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