Salford Quays

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Despite being about 40 miles from the sea, at one time Manchester was the third buiest port in England. This was due to the Manchester ship canal, opened in 1894, which allowed ships to sail almost into the city centre. However, their heyday didn’t last long. With the move to containerisation in the 1970’s the Port of Manchester began to decline as larger vessels couldn’t get up the canal, and they finally closed in 1982.

The biggest docks on the ship canal were in actually in Salford, covering 120 acres of water and 1,000 acres of land.  After their closure a substantial proportion of the docks were purchased by Salford Council and redevelopment began in 1985 under the Salford Quays Development Plan. Improvements were made to infrastructure and water quality and the derelict docks were developed for leisure, cultural and commercial use.

The first landmark building – the Lowry, which contains theatres and art galleries – opened on 28 April 2000 followed by the Imperial War Museum North, designed by Daniel Libeskind, in July 2002 (although that’s actually over the water in Trafford).

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Residential property has been constructed on the waterside

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and the most recent development is “Media City”, which spans both sides of the canal and it’s tenants include the BBC and ITV

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After we’d had a look round the Lowry we had a mooch around the quays, looking at the buildings and bridges and snapping some photos.

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Samuel Beckett Bridge

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This attractive, dramatic structure is one of the newest bridges over the River Liffey in Dublin. It’s located at the east end of the city, connecting the quays north and south of the river near the docks. I pass it every time I drive to and from Dublin port during my fairly regular trips to Ireland. During my visit this week I went into Dublin on Tuesday after work to watch a play at the Abbey Theatre. After braving some horrendous traffic along the quays I arrived with an hour to spare. It was a lovely evening and so having been stuck in the car for over an hour I decided to take a walk along the quays to stretch my legs. I snapped this photograph from another modern bridge, the Sean O’Casey footbridge.

Opened on December 10th 2009, the bridge was designed by the Spanish architect, structural engineer and artist, Santiago Calatrava. It’s a cable stay structure, designed to rotate ninety degrees to free the river channel for water transport crossing the river.

The shape of the main span was inspired by the harp, the Irish national symbol. And with the 31 cable stays it supports, I can certainly see the resemblance when viewed from a distance,

Calatrava has designed bridges for cities all over the word, including one in Manchester. I’ll have to go and have a closer look at it sometime.

Modern Buildings on the Clyde

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My hotel in Glasgow was just a short distance from the Clyde and on Monday evening I decided to get outside for a walk.

Not that long ago the banks of the Clyde were thriving as a major centre of shipbuilding, but not today. It’s hanging on by its fingernails at the Govan yard owned by BAE Systems but other than that there is little evidence of the industry which employed thousands of workers.

Walking south from my hotel following the M9 I reached the Clyde where the motorway crossed the river and turned right to follow it downstream towards an area that has been regenerated in recent years.

There was some evidence of the area’s industrial past.

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The Titan Crane , on the north bank of the river, is now a visitor attraction

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The giant 150-ton cantilever crane was erected around 1907 on the west side of the fitting-out basin of the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank. The refurbishment has been carried out in time to celebrate its 100 anniversary. The crane was used to lift the engines and boilers into numerous warships, as well as vessels like the Lusitania, Queen Mary, Britannia and the QE2.

I crossed over to the south bank via the Clyde Arc, better known as the “Squinty Bridge”

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I walked past the BBC Scotland building (I’d seen the local news broadcast from here during the morning on breakfast TV). The architect was David Chipperfield who also designed the Hepworth in Wakefield.

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A little further south, on the former Prince’s Dock, is the Glasgow Science Centre, designed by the Building Design Partnership. Standing next to it is the Glasgow Tower  designed by Richard Horden, with engineering design by Buro Happold and an IMAX cinema.

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On the north bank the Clyde Auditorium, better known as “the Armadillo” is probably the best known of Glasgow’s modern buildings and something of an “icon”. It’s distinctive design is meant to represent a series of interlocking ships’ hulls, commemorating the Clyde’s shipbuilding heritage.

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It was designed by Foster & Partners and opened in 1997

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Nearby is the most recent of the buildings, the SSE Hydro arena, also designed by Foster and Partners. It’s a 12,500-capacity arena used for major concerts and sporting events.

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Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum North

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We’ve not been over to Salford Quays for a while, but on Sunday we were showing our young Japanese friend, who we met when visiting the Bauhaus in Dessau last year, around Manchester. She’s an architecture student so a trip to Salford Quays to see the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum was a must.

The Imperial War Museum stands on the Trafford side of the quays. It’s a striking aluminium clad structure designed by Daniel Libeskind standing by the waterside.

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Liebskind is renowned for his dramatic metal clad buildings including the Jewish Museum in Berlin, his first major international success, which we’d visited last year. He also designed the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin which I made a point of going to see during a recent visit to the city.

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The architect’s website describes the concept of the building

The design concept is a globe shattered into fragments and then reassembled. The interlocking of three of these fragments—representing earth, air, and water—comprise the building’s form. The Earth Shard forms the museum space, signifying the open, earthly realm of conflict and war; the Air Shard serves as a dramatic entry into the museum, with its projected images, observatories and education spaces; and the Water Shard forms the platform for viewing the canal, complete with a restaurant, cafe, deck and performance space.

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Inside, the architect has deliberately employed the curves of the building, sharp angles and sloping floors to disorient visitors to simulate the effects of war and conflict.The design of the lighting, long angled luminaries, which are very similar to the arrangement of the windows and lighting in the Berlin Jewish Museum, contribute to this.

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The air shard – the tower – is an aluminium clad skeleton, which is empty other than a viewing platform about two thirds up that is accessed via a lift or stairs. We didn’t go up this time for the views over the Quays. It’s a little scary as the floor of the pattern is metal gridding which you can see through – right down to the ground many metres below.

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Kiasma – Architecture

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Kiasma – the Modern Art Museum in Helsinki reopened after being shut for refurbishment the day after I arrived in Helsinki for my recent visit.

The building was designed by the American architect, Steve Holl. Construction started in 1996 and it opened two years later in May 1998. It’s located in the city centre and with the Music Centre and Finlandia Hall forms a cultural axis leading towards Töölönlahti.

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I’d sum up the architecture with three words – curves, light and space.

From the outside it’s a structure of glass and aluminium cladding.

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Large windows at both ends of the building provide views over the city.

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Inside there hardly seems to be a straight line in sight.

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Access between levels is via a series of curving ramps and stairways

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Walls of windows and skylights bring in plenty of the limited Nordic light to illuminate the interior.

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