Tell your own Ancoats Story

The Engineer’s Tale

The design team and our client, Lyn Fenton, were all very keen that we brought an artist into the team.  We wanted someone who would make sure that we stepped outside of our limiting roles of client, architect, engineer etc and who would challenge our thinking.  I always talk about the artist being the person that asks the questions a ‘normal’ person would ask, as opposed to questions we have a duty to ask in our professional roles.  We also knew that we didn’t want to commission a piece of artwork to be landed somewhere in Ancoats.  Ancoats doesn’t need a landmark, it is a landmark in itself.
The question was how to go about finding the right person to join the team.  We either had to speak to artists we already knew (which may have been limiting) or invite a limited number whose work interested us to come and meet us.  The latter was the approach taken but we still needed a subject for the conversation so we decided we should ask six artists to respond to a particular site in Ancoats as a way of meeting them and exploring their approach.
It was, not surprisingly a very interesting exercise and all of the artists produced ideas that took the discussion into interesting territory.  When we had finished meeting and talking to them all it was clear to the design team members on the interview panel who we wanted.  Dan Dubowitz had managed to engage us with his enthusiasm but importantly we were very sure that we would not only work together but that such a collaboration would produce the special approach which Ancoats deserved.  After a slightly tricky discussion we managed to persuade other (non-design team) panel members that Dan was our man with one clear condition:  he was not to produce the fixed piece of artwork (called Transformer) he had brought along for the interview.
Lyn Fenton was entirely in agreement with this and had the job of telling Dan that we loved him but not his Transformer.  Dan’s face broke into a great knowing smile and we had our Artist team member.
The story of what followed is now embedded in Ancoats in the public realm and other interventions that Dan’s involvement brought about.

One response

  1. As designer of the Peeps book, Ancoats has held a special place in my Manchester make-up since arriving 20 years ago in this city. As I felt my way into the arts and cultural set up here, I used to head to a basement printers, who typeset and produced artwork for me before I had my first mac, often a scary dark and forbidding place, visited early before the rush of a day’s work to get my stuff sorted, or getting my fly-posters done old school style down a dark alley, cash only…

    A forgotten hinterland, rotting away, this part of town was always of fascination for the suggestion of a latent energy, of past glories, the street names nail it for me, so evocative of global places and endevour. I think that is why my chance meeting with Dan, in Italy oddly, drew me to the project he discussed there, about what he was doing in my adopted city. And so I then got the opportunity to sift through the archival material and draw on it, become immersed in it, read his rough notes, work with his photography and collected ephemera, to make a bookwork – a joyful process.

    Now I often detour on my road bike through the streets of pavé on my way back from the Velodrome, enjoying the feel of the cobbles under the wheels (its a european cycle thing), the place less ominous, but equally as fascinating, buildings of beautiful past industrial power reclaimed saved and reinvigorated.

    June 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm

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