Why Manchester is the Happening City
MANCHESTER is a wonderful city with a rich cultural history and I am delighted that it is finally getting the recognition it deserves. There is an air of optimism around the city, a real buzz and a great sense that you are achieving things that many `southern' cynics thought would not be possible.
I suppose the Commonwealth Games created the feelgood factor and Manchester remains the city of the moment. Even we Londoners had to sit up and take notice this summer, although when the heavens opened at the closing ceremony you couldn't help but allow yourself a wry smile, which is certainly more than Her Majesty did.
Manchester has come such a long way since the time I spent a cool autumn afternoon winding through a maze of streets looking at potential sites for Zinc Bar & Grill, our first restaurant venture in the UK outside London.
At that time it was all construction sites and cranes, and to some extent still is, but Manchester has emerged as a truly international city and a very exciting place for Conran & Partners to be working in. City Loft Developments, with whom we do our residential work, has found three excellent sites for us to create contemporary, imaginative homes in the heart of the city.
My life has been centred around promoting design that is imaginative, accessible and useful. And Manchester is the perfect place for new projects. I have always regarded it fondly. After all, the site of my first Habitat store was here. But now it has stepped up a gear and it is great to be playing a part.
Our first project in Manchester a couple of years ago was the conversion of the old telephone exchange on Church Street into apartments and we are currently building two new residential projects at Vantage Quay in Piccadilly and 38 High Street.
Vantage Quay is a particularly exciting project, located beside the Rochdale canal and Piccadilly Marina and only a short walk from Piccadilly train station.
It will create that all too rare commodity of city centre housing in a tranquil environment. So far, we have sold 57 out of 117 apartments making Vantage Quay the fastest-selling development in Manchester this year.
I can understand why there are almost twice as many new apartments in the pipeline as across the Pennines in Leeds.
As a designer, I have always appreciated Manchester's architectural heritage. The old Town Hall, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, reflects the wonderful opulence of the Victorian era - although I do wish it were still black.
As everyone knows, the fierce competition between Manchester and Birmingham to be Britain's second city has raged for years.
In my view, both cities rightly aim very high but for differing markets, so it is difficult to say whether one is bigger or better than the other. The housing market, for example, is taking off in Manchester in a way that simply hasn't happened yet in Birmingham.
In many ways, the city resembles those great European regional centres such as Barcelona or Milan, which can challenge the capital city in terms of individual style and exuberance.
Culturally, Manchester has made great strides in recent years and this probably gives them the edge over Brum. I'm particularly impressed by its museums, venues and exhibitions - some of the most exciting in the country. The Imperial War Museum North far outshines its London cousin and Daniel Libeskind's inspired design for the building takes modern architecture to new levels. Across the water, The Lowry positively shimmers while more centrally, there is the eye-catching new Urbis building - even if you do have to question the naming of it. However, my middle name is Orby, so who am I to talk!
Article By Sir Terence Conran
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