Manchester: A Tale of Two Cities

2012 — 2013

MSA’s student yearbook for 2013 leavers.

Manchester is only one of several cities that have aspired to be called the ‘Venice of the North’, but here such idyllic comparisons serve to belie the fact that many thousands of people died navigating these canals, the hand-dug trade conduits which gave birth to industrial capitalism. Manchester from the beginning was a city that told two dramatically polarised tales of riches and rags and ultimately brought both Capitalism and Communism to the world. Polar inequalities remain in both the social and physical fabric of the city, with receding industry leaving a discontinuous urbanism and recessional politics forcing the withdrawal of communal facilities and services.

We explore the role of urban design and architecture in improving conditions in socially and physically fragmented environments where there is little by way of the continuous historical fabric of the richer cities and towns to which we may aspire; and much less access to the opportunities which the occupants of affluent places tend to enjoy. In a city where we teach and learn how to make it beautiful and useful, we acknowledge the paradox that if architecture does nothing to serve wider society then we all, every day, suffer a poorer city.