Landmarks: Manchester

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The Independent Culture
I want to consider the passage of the River Irwell from the cathedral area in the north to the Castlefield area in the south, which is the site of Manchester's original Roman settlement. Waterways are often seen as a spine or catalyst for regeneration. The Irwell is particularly significant because it traditionally separates the two cities of Salford and Manchester. Because of this it has always suffered an identity problem. During the Victorian period it was basically just an open sewer, and the sides of all the bridges were built up so people couldn't see it. Then in 1979 the city planners realised they had this great resource which wasn't being used.

The change of policy led to an attempt to reintegrate the city with the river. To the north there is the Mark Addy, a pub recently renovated by Jim Ramsbottom, which shows how the vaulted arches underneath the Deansgate Road can be used. It's near here that the new Santiago Calatrava footbridge will connect Salford and Manchester. It should look like a piece of sculpture.

However it's when you come to the Castlefield area beyond the Granada studios that you get the biggest clue as to what could be done with the riverside's vacant sites. A tremendous amount of refurbishment has been done. Warehouses and coach houses have been renovated in an imaginative way so that there is a distinct tension between the historic framework and contemporary interventions. They provide an example of how conservation should be handled. We're peeling back layers of history, but also creating a heritage for the future.

Steve Hodder's Manchester firm is working on the extension to St Catherine's College, Oxford

(Photograph omitted)

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