Trees and plenty of paint revive the blasted Arndale

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The Independent Online
Manchester has chosen the most conservative of five short-listed teams to rebuild its city centre after the IRA bomb. Edaw, a local consortium of architects, engineers, planners and builders, plans to keep the devastated Arndale Centre, although it will be clad in a coat of new colours and pierced with pedestrian walkways.

The design team plans to create tree-lined thoroughfares, or avenues, leading to a host of leisure and entertainment centres. These will include a winter garden near the site of the bomb-damaged bus station and a Trocadero behind the facade of the landmark Maxwell House building. The core of the plan is a broad avenue leading through some of the areas worst affected by bomb damage; this will pass through a new park.

The team will need more than a little magic to bring new life into the heart of the city blown apart by a 3,300lb bomb on 15 June. The bomb killed no one but caused an estimated pounds 500m damage, wrecking more than 1,000 square metres of shops and offices.

Announcing the winning team yesterday, Sir Alan Cockshaw, chairman of the task-force set up to rebuild the city, said: "Our aim is to create the very best city centre in the whole of Europe, but most importantly one which the people of Manchester can be proud of."

Whether or not the people of Manchester are proud of the famously ugly Arndale Centre, which took the brunt of the blast, Sir Alan did not say.

Responding to a questionnaire after the bomb, Mancunians complained of a city centre that was "dead as a place where people live"; Edaw has replied with plans for 240 new homes in the rebuilt city centre. Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said the project would create "a simple but memorable city centre, clearly deliverable within the time-scale and budget". The time-scale is the end of 1998; the budget has yet to be decided, although Edaw has an initial fund of pounds 22m to draw on. Millennium funding is to be sought.

If the design is conservative, that is because the city wants to get back on its feet as quickly as possible. The judges' choice has made it clear that what was wanted was a team and a design that could give birth to a new centre on a tight budget and in the shortest possible time.

It is significant that none of the five design teams short-listed for the competition included big-name architects, despite the fact that the Richard Rogers Partnership, for example, is currently working on a facelift for Shanghai, and both Lord Rogers and his former partner, the Genoese architect Renzo Piano, are redesigning Potsdammer Platz, the Piccadilly Circus - or Manchester Piccadilly - of central Berlin.

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