The old-world charm of Manchester’s High Street architecture, UK Television, Northwest England Media Building Photos

The old-world charm of Manchester’s High Street architecture

1 July 2021

Apart from its football clubs, Manchester is known around the world for being the first industrial city. It is a product of the Industrial Revolution, and its architecture takes us back to that area. As you enter the city, you will be greeted by warehouses, mills and old railway bridges. Instead of Medieval or Georgian buildings that are commonly found in the rest of England, Manchester has more Victorian Neo-gothic or Greek Classic buildings.

Its 19th century wealth left long-lasting marks on the face of the city. Beautiful old red brick buildings are a common sight all around. Whether it is houses or commercial shops, they add a lot of character to the city. Bury, Northern Quarter, Atrincham and Prestwich are some of the areas and suburbs with the best architecture.

Manchester’s Architecture and its iconic high streets

We picked Manchester for our tour also because it has been known to have a large architecture practice compared to other English cities. In the modern age too, leading architecture firms like BDP and Urban Splash have their headquarters here. It is also famous for the Manchester School of Architecture, jointly administered by The University of Manchester with Manchester Metropolitan School.

Manchester’s Streets and Plazas

For our Manchester architecture tour, we explored Bury, a large market town in Greater Manchester. It has bustling markets, comprising everything from independent award-winning stores to retail chains.

Manchester’s Architecture and its iconic high streets

We hopped into Specscart, an award-winning eyewear store and one of the most popular opticians in Bury. With gracious use of red bricks and stones, it is a great example of striking 20th century architecture. Although tall, steel framed buildings are the norm now, stores in this area are visually appealing and sturdy at the same time.

Manchester’s Architecture and its iconic high streets

As we walk inside, we are greeted by bright lights and contemporary interiors. Like Specscart, most of the stores on this street use this mix of both worlds – the modern and vintage. But does the type of architecture also affect the brand image of a business?

We talked to Sid Sethi, the founder of Specscart – “Manchester has always been about revolution and change. We were looking for a place which had an old-world charm, but which would also house our modern, new age dream. This place is perfect for the 21st century Industrial Revolution – where customers are much more aware and have hundreds of options.”

As we walked further down the lane, we saw banks, iconic fast food joints like Tim Hortons and independent eateries and pubs.

A short drive away there is Ramsbottom, with iconic bars and cafes.

Another distinct feature about the city is Manchester Brutalist Architecture. It refers to functional, low cost concrete buildings which dot the city.

Manchester’s Architecture and its iconic high streets

They are typically used for social housing and civic buildings. Unfortunately, many of these are being replaced with cookie-cutter glass and steel skyscrapers. Although this modern architecture does look great, some believe it lacks the personality of old buildings.

One such example is the Mathematics Tower of the University of Manchester, which used to stand tall over the Oxford Road till 2004. The architecture was a combination of 1960s brutalism and international-style modernism, with a 3 storey podium and 2 contrasting facades. It is now the Alan Turing Building, which boasts of a unique design with an eye-catching roof. Named after one of the greatest mathematicians of the world (and Manchester’s very own), it houses 3 floored buildings separated by a huge atrium.

No trip to Manchester is complete without admiring its architecture. While we covered brutalist architecture and iconic high street shops in this article, there is a lot more to see – like the famous Town Hall – which we will write about in our next articles.

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