With news that the North West’s flagship media campus, Media City, has been nominated for a Carbuncle Cup award John Glenday, publisher of architectural magazine Urban Realm and organiser of the Carbuncle Awards, summarised the scheme's many design failings for The Drum.
As the signature dish of the BBC’s much vaunted northern flit Media City had raised hopes for a cultural, economic and architectural revival of a forlorn promontory of the Manchester ship canal. Whilst the former two objectives have been resoundingly achieved the latter, unfortunately, has not.
Masterminded by the Peel Group (authors of the Trafford Centre) with their partners in crime, architects Wilkinson Eyre, Fairhursts and Chapman Taylor - the development stands as a missed opportunity for Manchester and the North.
What could have been a hub of real flair is instead a soulless graveyard of dismal, developer driven designs whose cheap cladding says more of Peel’s true ambition for their baby than the reams of marketing material plugging office space and homes.
The motley agglomeration of towers and which have sprouted from the weeds are uniform in their banality from the brown hulk of the Holiday Inn to the grey heights of an under cooked residential tower. Even the BBC’s own flagship property wouldn’t look out of place on a suburban business park, its anonymity reflecting nothing of the bustle of creativity taking place within.
If the development is disappointing from the front it is truly horrid from the rear, effectively mooning what remains of Salford with a collection of service bays towering towered over by car parks and ensnared by security fencing.
This lack of sensitivity to context is reflected in the blank gable ends of the towers being presented to the admittedly high quality, Public Square outside the BBC’s studios. Worse a series of outsized signs proclaiming the new facilities serve nothing other than to clutter the hodge podge of styles and colours which articulate the edifices plonked higgledy piggledy along the waterfront.
The resulting compound is one which the BBC’s London hold outs have done well to turn their noses up at.
Five Media City slip ups
1. Cladding - What could have been a recognised landmark on par with the Lowry is instead on par with the Trafford Centre
2. Location - Peel went out on a limb with their Salford site but there are many who feel Manchester City Centre would have been a better bet.
3. Context – A self enclosed compound acts as a dislocated bubble amidst the surrounding wasteland
4. Appearance - Drab colours and oppressive forms do more to stymie creative energies than foster them
5. Design - Poor design fuels misconceptions that only the capital can support cutting edge architecture