Behind the scenes at the library


Aidan Turner-Bishop of the C20 Society NW Group writes:

Manchester Central Library (E Vincent Harris, 1934+) is closing very soon for a major reconstruction. The Library has arranged closedown tours which are listed below. A special tour by the NW group of the C20 Society would probably be difficult to arrange within these dates, times and numbers so I suggest that anyone who is interested books directly with the Library. This will be your *Last Chance* to visit behind the scenes of Vincent Harris’s Central Library for some years. *Book now* if you’re interested. Places are sure to go quickly. The contact details are:

Libby Tempest
Cultural Services Manager,
Manchester Library & Information Service,
Central Library,
St. Peter’s Square,
M2 5PD



Wed 17th March @ 10.30am; Thur 18th March @ 2pm; Sat 20th March @ 11am; Tues 23rd March @ 4.30pm; Wed 24th March @ 6pm; Thur 25th March @ 2.30pm; Thur 25th March @ 6pm; Sat 27th March @ 2pm; Mon 29th March @ 10.30am; Tues 30th March @ 5.30pm

Maximum of 15 places on each tour.

It’s naff up north?


The provincial insecurities which plague issues of urban design in Manchester surface again with these two proposals for familiar landmarks. The austere sublimity which might be thought to characterise the best of Manchester’s civic and industrial architecture had no need to soften its impact. It was robust, not to say blunt and thought the citizens could respect that self confidence, indeed have a sneeking regard for it and react accordingly.

Perhaps it’s the imminent arrival of attention-deficient media-types at MediaCity which has suggested that the deliberately unsettling air shard on Daniel Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum – North needs a shower of cherry blossom in the foreground, or the stunning and unique Library Walk between Vincent Harris’s Central Library and Town Hall Extension requires a glass canopy? We might assume that the economic downturn will dispose of these naff proposals but perhaps it is time for the Vincent Harris Vigilantes to engage in an ‘historic compromise’ with the Daniel Libeskind Vigilantes?


More on Vincent Harris’s masterpiece

Vincent Harris Vigilantes Awake!

Some vandalism

Waterhouse and Harris – safe in their hands?

Further to a post earlier this year the potential fate of Manchester Town Hall (Alfred Waterhouse), its Extension and Central Library (E. Vincent Harris) becomes clearer. The Manchester Evening News story about the future of the most significant urban and architectural ensemble in the city should raise fears in the minds of any concerned citizen. Among the questions that occur are

– why does a library and a town hall need shops?

– will cars in the new underground carpark be exempt from the proposed congestion charge?

– what has happened to the spirit of civic pride which produced these great buildings, and why does it have such a faint voice in the deliberations of the council?

Manchester Evening News story

Vincent Harris Vigilantes Awake!

Rumours reach CiA of changes afoot in one of Manchester’s most significant pieces of urban design, Library Walk, which mediates between Vincent Harris’s pantheon-inspired Central Library and his rather more Scandinavian-classical Town Hall Extension. All potential VHV should be concerned because of

a) The crassness of the City Council’s stewardship of the city’s patrimony – as evidenced by the laughable application of No Parking signs to Harris’s gracefully austere elevations.


b) The previous vandalism visited on Harris’s Rates Hall in the Town Hall Extension “with the introduction of a burolandschaft office plan attemting to ‘humanise’ a previously clearly hierarchical space” (Canniffe & Jefferies 1998).

One might hope this robust but vulnerable example of municipal pride will receive the same sensitive treatment and restoration as Harris’s Sheffield City Hall, reinvigorated by Penoyre & Prasad, but one fears the worst…perhaps a Starbucks … or yet another branch of Kro?

So crucial is the ensemble of Harris’s buildings on St. Peter’s Square that it features in the central section of this film of the digital model of the city produced by Arup.

I feel a campaign coming on…