Elucidations and Annotations
Simulacrom of Urban-Architecture v. Effigy of Cine City
I clearly remember that, in 2005, my Mancunian architecture critic and theoretician, Phil Griffin, started one of his lectures with the visualization of Gotham City from “Batman Begins”, and he said: "...in the last century, we were supposed to make city and urban contexts as “sophisticated” as this, but why we didn’t and haven’t yet?!"
The images of Gotham City (+Arkham City), Starling City (Green Arrow), Central City (Flash), Metropolis (Fritz Lang’s as well as Superman’s), Argo City (Supergirl), Astro City and many others have one thing in common: they are extravagant by all means.
By increasing the role of graduates of architectural and urban design programs in movie industry, we would address the featuring aspects of architecture and urban design in virtual scenes, with references to the aforementioned movies and we would discuss how they are different from the images of preplanned cities. We need to discuss how the architecture and urban design of the next generation of the virtual cities/urban contexts would possibly be developed.
A Greater “Greater City” or a Doubled “Greater City”? Toward a Multi-Nodal Model
The first image of Manchester, back in 2005, for the tourists came to the city, probably would have been the image given by city center from Oxford Street towards north including a couple of Victorian buildings and Palace Hotel on the right, Corner House, one of the most famous art exhibition centers on the left, and William Alsop’s residential scheme, the greenest residential building of Manchester, towards the end of Caley Street, next to Oxford Street train station. This might be the most memorable perspective for the people visiting Manchester for the first time. However, the continuity of this townscape, which is followed by St. James Building, a prominent landmark of the city, is crossed by the horizontal mass of railway bridges exactly opposite to the hotel. This part of the city center in accompanied by further part of Oxford Street, including City Library at the corner of St. Peter Square and the outstanding urban space of St. Peter Square’s itself would generate a crucial historical perspective and image.
The split images of under construction projects all around the city -and in every corner- came to the mind and would be considered as a new wave of urban regeneration. Also many of new commercial and office projects are instantly recognizable. This also would bring about the brand new wave of a huge investment in major parts of the city. In absense of a comparative comprehensive study, undefined periodic development of the city and the fact that many of small investments are not listed put a serious restriction on chasing the investment flow in the urban texture. However, perhaps current development can be considered as the second widespread investment incident since 1996 or even the first if the current flow lasts for a while. Renovation of the buildings locating on the south part of Piccadilly Square and the urban developments next to Piccadilly Station, the city’s central station located in East, and a number of PFI (Private Financial Initiative) projects around the city are just some examples of this unprecedented change not only in Manchester but in the same scale rivals, the other major cities in Britain.
The Manchester's regeneration project, therefore, embracing a large part of the city center, after 1996 IRA Bombing, is still very important. It has been developed by one of the local architectural offices; as a part of new Manchester’s Master Planning. However, this major change is another forgotten memory of the city comparing to a brand new architectural burst: rising of a 171-meter fully glazed blade to tear the miserable but unified urban texture of the city apart; the Beetham Tower. It houses a 5-star Hilton Hotel, a series of residential units, and a number of luxury apartments for the celebrities. It is the tallest residential scheme in Europe with a concrete structure. The structure solution is quite unusual in the country where there is a brilliant history of building in steel yet extremely tiny experience with reinforced concrete.
Question: Are those by themselves important?
But more important is the fact that Obsolescence Management Information System OMIS reports 2006, on Britain’s best cities, recognized Manchester as the best place in the UK to locate a "business". Manchester Partnership report claim the city as the third most visited city by foreign visitors in the European Union and the second city in the UK after London! No matter how it did happen through a chronological view. But the rest of the story and the theory/model based on which the city has being developed does matter.
Manchester is often described as the capital of North of England. In 2008, the city center has a population of 452,000 which lies at the center of Greater Manchester Urban Area with a population of more than 2.4 millions, the UK’s third largest conurbation, the second largest urban zone in England and the fourteenth most populated area within the Europe.
A new cosmopolitan outlook of urban life is emerging in Manchester. The suburban areas surrounding the city center have been changing faster than before, at least for the last decade. This process is still being maintained at the same pace by a series of developing projects. These changes have been happening not only on surface but deep into the urban context due to huge demographic and cultural changes defining a new global face for the area. A number of the suburbia are entirely populated purely by residents of ethnic minorities, mostly Asians and British-Asians, known by their local names while the others are rapidly growing in form of full service-providers to thriving economy of the city; the process which nobody could even imagine. The list is not limited to Hulme, Trafford, Fallowfield, Cheetham Hill, Collyhurst, Rochdale, and Plymouth Grove. The old towns such as Salford in west, Stockport in south, and Ashton in east have been also devoured by the unleashed development of the city. Having a considerable distance from Manchester city center, they are now joining to first districts to form low cost residential cores for the working class yet continuing to carry out simultaneously their principal roles within the metropolitan area. However, some may claim that these smaller cities have been overshadowed by Manchester, and are struggling to fashion their local identity, but evidentally, the city of Salford, with its renowned university and Lowry Center (Michael Wilford and Partners), accompanied by War Museum (Daniel Libeskind) could be indisputably built a very culture of its own. It implies that the other city might be able to asmbly their identies within a colaition with Manchester, and there is no need to be reimbursed by Manchester.
City of Salford, Lowry Center (by Michael Wilford and Partners), view from War Museum