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5 Most Innovative Manchester Regeneration Projects

Ancoats - Ashton Canal Manchester
Ancoats - Ashton Canal Manchester
These 5 Manchester regeneration projects are a part of the city's rapid transformation into a modern urban hub that capitalises on its existing historic and environmental assets to create great urban space for residents.

Manchester has been changing dramatically over the past few years. The city’s rising economy has brought about a construction boom: high-rise glossy towers popping up next to the redeveloped historic buildings and mills in industrial areas, new and reinvented public squares and green spaces adorning the city, and in-between – some contemporary cutting-edge housing projects – Manchester regeneration is in full swing.

Manchester regeneration and construction efforts have been recently highly praised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for the quality of their world-class design:

“We place sustainability and quality of design at the heart of all our regeneration projects and I’m proud to see that aim recognised by these awards.”

Councillor Bernard Priest, deputy leader of Manchester City Council

Today we will be looking at the 5 most innovative regeneration projects in the capital of the Northern Power House. The chosen projects reflect best Manchester’s strive to become a modern city whilst preserving its heritage, embracing public spaces and environmental values, and providing its residents with high quality urban living space.

  1. St. Peter’s – from Church to Music and Arts Hub

Manchester’s inner city region of Ancoats has been known by many different names, none of them flattering: the grim Ancoats, the World’s first industrial suburb, Hell on Earth…

But today it’s simply Ancoats Urban Village – an outstanding example of a sensitive and thoughtful approach to regeneration in Manchester.

The real centre and soul of Ancoats is the landmark building of the Romanesque church of St. Peter’s. It has recently been beautifully restored and now acts as a ‘beacon of hope’ and a symbol of Ancoats’ reinvention.

Halle St.Peters
The proposed extension to Halle St.Peters. Image source: http://www.stephenson-studio.com/

In 1960, after years of decline due to an ever reducing congregation, the church was closed to the public and sold to a developer with a view of turning it into an apartment building. However, nothing happened to the building except further destruction and decay until recently when St.Peter’s was acquired by the Hallé – an English symphony orchestra based in Manchester.

The Grade II listed former church has now been redeveloped and restored to its former glory and is a light, airy and beautiful space ideal for rehearsing, performing, teaching and recording.

The elegant interior of the building with its high vaulted ceilings offers fantastic acoustics. It is complemented by breathtaking architecture and carefully preserved original features, creating the perfect setting for an orchestra concert or a community event.

The Hallé, which also has a choir, youth choir, youth training choir, children’s choir and a youth orchestra is using this fantastic space to continue traditions of music education through generations. In the past a congregation from the local community gathered together in the church for religious ceremonies. Today the residents of the community come to St. Peter’s to enjoy music and performances.

The Hallé is now seeking to extend the building. It has recently awarded the contract to build a worthy addition to the ‘industrial architectural heritage of the former cotton mill area of the city’ to local architects Stephenson Studio. The extension will fit in with the existing powerful red brick structures and help integrate the adjacent Cutting Room Square.

  1. The Space – Wellbeing Through Architecture

The Space is a new facility for the youth mental health charity 42nd Street, which helps young people build up confidence and address emotional stress and mental health issues.

The Space
The Space. Image source: www.northerndesignawards.com

As well as the office accommodation for staff, the Space provides drop-in facilities for young people in need of support, as well as group and one-to-one interaction spaces.

The building was designed by an incredibly talented architect, Maurice Shapero, who managed to translate a tense, unstable and emotionally charged teenage outlook on the world into an actual architectural structure. His building is an attempt to reconcile the extremes of emotions and confusion with the outside world.

The strict geometry of the building renders comfort and solid protection, and yet there is freedom in it – in its strangely placed windows, angled walls and white sentinels at the entrance: they can pivot open and transform into totem like sculptures allowing the yard to connect with Great Ancoats Street, or shut tightly if one needs privacy.

The entrance link features a long leaning wall on one side with a succession of windows on the ceiling to let the light through. The wall cuts through the main orthogonal building creating a triangular double height vertical space. This intended avoidance of too many right shapes and aligned components helps prevent feelings of oppression and monotony; instead it invites one to explore the space and brings in elements of adventure.

The Space
The Space: main entrance and the sentinels on guard

Inside the building the adventure goes on: tapering stairs, angled rooms, leaning walls, a corridor to nowhere, and wardrobes which are in fact passages to the one to one therapy rooms.

This remarkable building with gleaming white steel gates, bizarre angles and sharply sliced walls wraps around the very traditional red brick structures of Coates School and a corner shop building.

The charity now has plans for the corner shop building too. Inspired by Thomas Horsfall’s pioneering Ancoats Arts Museum that was opened in 1884 offering classes in music, arts and performances, the charity now aims to follow his footsteps.

They have just started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to renovate and repurpose the shop into a three storey, dedicated creative space for beautiful arts with a useful purpose.

The launch programme includes a site-specific theatre experience, visual arts exhibitions, online collaborations between young people in the UK and Los Angeles, and opportunities for young people to develop creative skills for a commercial market.

  1. Royal Mills – Modern Canal-side Living in an Historic Mill

Manchester regeneration is not just about public buildings; it’s about reinventing city living as well. The Rochdale Canal is becoming a fabulous waterway for the area, a beautifully appointed and maintained feature providing residents with walks and other activities. It is also now a sought-after spot for modern canal-side living, such as offered by the Royal Mills development.

Royal Mills
Royal Mills. Image source: http://www.royalmills.co.uk/

This canal-side development is a truly fabulous example of sensitive restoration and redevelopment.

Originally built in 1797 as a cotton mill, Royal Mills has been a significant player in the industrial revolution. Now some say it is the heart of Ancoats historic district and its regeneration process.

Together with the new imaginative buildings, the redeveloped Royal Mills line the Rochdale canal creating a bustling, canal-side community.

The first step in the mixed use Royal Mills regeneration at Ancoats Manchester was the £25m refurbishment of the historic Grade II Listed Sedgwick Buildings, bringing them back from the brink of dereliction and collapse. The restoration started in 2003 and took three years.  ING Real Estate Development undertook this opportunity to spearhead preservation of one of Manchester’s most historic districts.

Royal Mills is now all about modern stylish living. It offers great public spaces, private roof terraces, a stunning, glazed atrium and secure, underground parking facilities. The apartments are planned to maximise space and light, the interiors are elegant, and the finishes smack of modern day reserved luxury.

All these fantastic modern touches are framed by the carefully restored original walls of the cotton mills.

  1. One Angel Square – the Green Leader of Manchester Regeneration

An environmental highlight of Manchester regeneration campaign is the city’s famous office building – One Angel Square – an impressive centrepiece of the new £800 million NOMA development in the northern quarter of Manchester city centre. It is now home to the head office of the Co-operative Group.

One Angel Square
One Angel Square. Image source: www.co-operative.coop.

The building is 72.5 metres (237.8 feet) tall, and has a distinctive shape that’s been compared to both a sliced egg and a ship.

This fabulous 15-storey structure is triangular, with a full-height atrium at its core.

A fully glazed double skin curving façade wraps the building both horizontally and vertically.

The atrium and the double skinned facade are an elegant and clever architectural solution: apart from the obvious aesthetic impact, they are key to creating natural heating, cooling and lighting.

Daylight floods the interior of the building through the atrium, while the facade helps to minimise heating and cooling loads.

The design allows louvres at the top of the facade to be open in summer to let the warmed air trapped between its inner and outer skins to rise up and out of the building. In winter these louvres are kept closed, so the facade forms an insulated blanket around the building.

The building has its own source of heat and power generation through a CHP (combined heat and power) plant. Additional heat for heating purposes can be sourced through heat recovery from the IT systems.

The building is equipped with low energy LED lighting and IT equipment and systems.

There is a water recycling system that provides greywater and rainwater for toilet flushing and irrigation.

When Her Majesty The Queen officially opened One Angel Square in November 2013, it was declared the most environmentally friendly building in the world. It was awarded a highest ever BREEAM score of 95.16% making it one of the most sustainable large buildings in Europe. It is also an energy-plus building, producing surplus energy and zero carbon emissions.

  1. La Residenza – Cutting-Edge Approach to Traditional Terraced Housing

La Residenza is a new residential development by Hillcrest Homes on iconic George Leigh Street in Ancoats.

La Residenza by Hillcrest Homes
La Residenza. Image source: www.hillcresthomes.co.uk

When, in the beginning of 19th century the cotton industry was booming in Ancoats, great numbers of Italian immigrants arrived to work in the cotton mills. They made the area their ‘residenza’, and subsequently it was given the nickname Little Italia.

With Manchester regeneration gaining speed, the area is becoming more and more popular with young families and professionals.

Architecturally La Residenza is very respectful of its historic residents: constructed from characterful red brick with slate roofs, the 14 terraced houses of the new development fit seamlessly in the existing industrial make of Ancoats.

For the urban areas where high density housing is traditionally tight for room and space, La Residenza offers surprisingly spacious homes, with an open plan kitchen, dining and living area on the first floor, two bedrooms, guest suite and a family bathroom on the second, and a generous master bedroom with a dressing area, an en-suite and a balcony on the fourth floor.

On the ground floor there is a study to the front of the house, and a garaged parking space for two cars.

Extensive glazing ensures the internal space gets as much light as possible. The roof above the balconies is sliced at an angle to maximise the light. The garden decks that are enclosed between the backs of the houses are protected from the street noise, whilst providing a great space for alfresco dining and entertainment.

The design of La Residenza reflects the neighbourhood and history, and the interior space is beautiful in its simplicity and quality of materials. La Residenza is an attempt of acclaimed award winning architects Calderpeel FGP to offer urban residents stylish open plan living with maximised space and light with easy access to the facilities and amenities of the bustling city centre.

These 5 fabulous projects contribute significantly to the overall image of a new, truly reinvented Manchester. There is clearly a new tendency in urban planning centred on respecting heritage, whilst creating great and vibrant public and community spaces. It also involves rethinking a traditionally tight urban dwelling in a way that allows the creation of a light and spacious home close to a bustling city centre.

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