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WE CONTINUE our walk around Manchester, taking in a sample of the changes currently taking place. We start at one of the most controversial redevelopment schemes, seen from its best angle...

PICCADILLY GARDENS underwent a radical and controversial redevelopment, which was completed in time for the July 2002 Commonwealth Games. Here are the fountains, looking towards Market Street, with Debenhams (formerly Pauldens) on the left and Oldham St on the right

EWM says: The fountains have been a big hit with the public, many of whom remark that they're great for kids to play in during the summer. But wouldn't be much better if we had a dedicated all-weather facility for water recreation, similar to 'Wet & Wild' in Newcastle or the bathing complexes that exist in most major cities across Europe?

THE ARNDALE CENTRE is being remodelled in contemporary style, and the ugly yellow tiles which blighted Manchester for a generation will soon be a memory. This is the new main entrance to the Arndale Centre with wave-shaped roof, metallic exterior and new logo. Blue tourist signs point to city centre destinations.

EWM says: The new Arndale exterior provides a much-needed and long-awaited facelift. The 'minimalist prefab hi-tech' style is a significant improvement on the tiles. But let's not forget that in the 60's half of Market Street was destroyed to make way for the Arndale Centre. If we could put those facades back, we'd have a whole street again, like Grafton St in Dublin or Buchanan St in Glasgow. Note also that the tiles have not been removed, only covered over by the new 'skin'.

ANITA STREET ANCOATS demonstrates the remarkable mix of old and new that is contemporary Manchester. The 19th century street of brick-built terraced houses has been pedestrianised. Stainless steel posts prevent people in cars from entering the street. At the end of Anita St is the new residential extension to the Expressnetworks building, created by developers Artisan H. Covered with shiny metallic sheeting, the curved edges echo the style of the former Daily Express Building on Great Ancoats St.

EWM says: The addition of new buildings to old locations doesn't always bring a pleasing result, but here, new and old seem to complement each other. The Lunar Module-style metallic sheeting is a daring choice of exterior material for the new building by Artisan H, and, I think, very pleasing to the eye.

LOOKING ALONG THE IRWELL from Quay Street Bridge towards Manchester Cathedral there is large scale construction on both the Salford and Manchester banks of the river. On the right is the Spinningfields site, formerly occupied by the workshops of St John's College, later MANCAT. The Spinningfields project is by Allied London Properties and Manchester City Council. The crane half a mile up the river on the Salford side is part of The Edge construction site.

EWM says: Many of my negatives taken just a few of years ago show scenes which have now radically changed. I'm planning a big 'Before and After' feature to appear soon.

LEFTBANK APARTMENTS complex is part of the Spinningfields development site which extends from the River Irwell to Deansgate. The computer generated visualisation gives us an idea of how the finished complex will look. Right centre, overlooking the site is Albert Bridge House.

EWM says: I will be interested to see how the Spinningfields complex turns out. Watch out for photos and commentary in upcoming editions of Eyewitness in Manchester.

MANCAT, formed from what used to be St John's College and other local collages, used to occupy a large section of the Spinningfields site. The old St John's College building was demolished and this new, smaller building has appeared on Quay Street.

EWM says: Though it was hardly a masterpiece of post-war architecture, many people were sad at the demise of the St John's College building, Perhaps people in the future will feel the same when this building is decomissioned perhaps in 50 or 100 years time.

TIMBER WHARF is an upmarket residential development by Urban Splash. It's located next to the Bridgewater Canal and is overlooked by the railway viaduct now used by Metrolink trams as well as trains to Liverpool. Framed by the railway arch we are looking at the main building, which is in classic modernist style of the type pioneered by Le Corbusier in the 1920's. The Bridgewater Canal runs in front of the building.

EWM says: It's interesting how many apartment projects are situated next to water. Most of the industrial buildings were placed next to canals for practical reasons. Today the water provides an attractive setting as well as security from intruders.

All photos and articles © Aidan O'Rourke

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