The Engineer’s Tale (2)
As an East Londoner working in Manchester it was several months before I was introduced to Ancoats on one of my visits to Manchester. I don’t even recall now the first visit (my memory doesn’t seem to work in, ‘firsts’ but I do remember regularly meeting people in the Edinburgh Castle pub which to me felt as close as you could get to the atmosphere of an East End pub (in a different accent).
It was the early 1990’s and a small group of enthusiasts were investing energy in this extraordinary remnant of the Industrial Revolution, to save it physically for others but importantly to also maintain a continuity to the human stories of Ancoats. I was working in the city centre on an another extraordinary piece of industrial history, Great Northern Warehouse and its environs. At that stage my involvement was mainly trying to lend what little support I could to the enthusiasts, through my knowledge of reusing existing buildings.
Some months after these initial forays into Ancoats (again I don’t recall the date) I got a phone call from Chris Brown who was running AMEC’s regeneration arm.
“We want you to work with us on the Heart of Ancoats bid we are making. We also need an Architect. I am thinking we should get someone like Demetri Porphyrios and do something very Italianate.” said Chris.
“Love to join your team…but what’s the Italian thing? This is Manchester…”.
I explained to Chris that whilst the Italian history of Ancoats was a critical part of its history this project was about the future of Ancoats. We should make a built environment that acknowledges the history of a place but also reinforces the place itself, Manchester. I suggested we get Ted Cullinan Architects on board and let them do their thing.
Chris agreed. We made a design proposal and won the project with a bravura performance by Ted at the interview.
After several years of trying, the project never actually got to construction stage and the Heart of Ancoats remains undeveloped but it was my first real Ancoats experience in a professional context, albeit one which never reached fruition.