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Discover Manchester through its Architecture

Go See This contributor Ellie Fraser talks us through some of the city’s most stunning buildings.

Go See This contributor Ellie Fraser talks us through some of the city’s most stunning buildings.

Manchester is a city rich both in its industrial heritage and in a variety of architectural styles. It is the place where the Gothic (think The John Rylands Library) is juxtaposed by the daringly modern (namely the Beetham Tower). Manchester’s architecture documents its proud history in music, politics, science and art and its transition from cotton industry to modern metropolis. If you have a spare morning or afternoon, why not take a tour of Manchester through its architecture? Here are 7 of the best buildings that make up the city’s dramatically evolving skyline.

The Hacienda

First stop: The Hacienda. Although the building was demolished to make way for apartments, the site was once home to the infamous nightclub and music venue The Hacienda which opened its doors in 1982. The club established itself in the ‘Madchester’ scene of the 1980s and 1990s, and was synonymous with rave culture and acid house. It was largely bankrolled by the record label Factory Records (an homage to Manchester’s industrial past) and the band New Order. Nevertheless, the apartment complex not only retained The Hacienda name and the yellow and black branding, but it also has paid tribute to the many artists that performed there – Fatboy Slim, Oasis and Madonna to name a few. If you approach the building from the Rochdale Canal towpath, you can see the timeline artwork.

The Beetham Tower

About a five minute walk-away, is the Beetham Tower. The Deansgate skyscraper was completed in 2006, and stands at an impressive 168 metres tall and 48 floors high. Designed by the architect Ian Simpson, it cost a whopping £150 million. The Beetham Tower provides home to both the Hilton Hotel (which occupies the first 22 floors) and luxury apartments. The tower boasts spectacular views of the city which can be enjoyed from the Cloud 23 bar (although this is strictly adults only). It you don’t have time to visit, don’t worry because the imposing tower is easily visible from much of the city.

The John Rylands Library

The John Rylands Library, also in Deansgate, was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband, John Rylands. Built in the neo-Gothic style and designed by the architect Basil Champneys; the library first opened to the public in 1900. The library is home to an incredible collection of rare books and manuscripts. Open to the public and free to visit, their current exhibition The Alchemy of Colour runs until 27 August and explores the experimental methods by which artists created their colours.

Manchester Town Hall

Also located in Deansgate and also built in the Victorian Gothic style, Manchester Town Hall was completed in 1877 and is one of the most iconic landmarks of the city. The building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse who successfully combined the ceremonial and pragmatic requirements. The interior features the British pre-Raphaelite Ford Madox Brown’s The Manchester Murals which detail the history of the city. Unfortunately, the Town Hall is closed for refurbishment until 2024, but this does not mean it is not worth a visit. The exterior of the building bears sculptures of the Roman General Agricola, Henry III, Elizabeth I and St. George.

Manchester Central Library and

Manchester Art Gallery

The neighbouring St. Peter’s Square is home to Manchester Central Library. Designed by E. Vincent Harris and completed in 1934, the building is somewhat reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome. The building is a neoclassical rotunda with an attached Corinthian portico entrance. The library is open to the public, and the grand reading room is well worth a look. Just across the square on Mosley Street, is the Manchester Art Gallery. The gallery was designed by Sir Charles Barry in the Greek Ionic style. The impressive façade is echoed by the outstanding collection of artworks from Pre-Raphaelite paintings to objects of craft and design.

Manchester Cathedral

A short fifteen minute walk, takes you to Manchester Cathedral. The Grade I listed building, conceived in the Perpendicular Gothic style, can be traced back to the medieval period, however it was not until 1847 that it became a cathedral under the creation of a new Manchester diocese. However, much of the Victorian stained glass was destroyed during the Manchester Blitz of 1940, and later by an IRA bomb in 1996. To commemorate the latter, the Healing Window was installed in 2004. The Cathedral is open to the public and with free admission.

Image credit: Chris Czermak