I walked across Manchester a couple of times yesterday, in the pursuit of food and ale. Nearly every road in the city centre is being dug up, either to replace Victorian water and sewerage pipes or lay new tramlines. Roads that are normally busy with bumper-to-bumper traffic (like Deansgate) are strangely quiet, devoid of the normal background engine noise but, nevertheless, full of pedestrians.
Despite the people of Manchester returning a resounding “no” to the proposed congestion charge, the city centre is certainly less congested as motorists can no longer drive through it. As my second husband’s grandmother used to say “there is more than one way to kill a spider than pull its legs off” (apologies to insect-lovers).
There is a very healthy debate going on about whether more of the city centre should be car-free on the Manchester Evening News website. Feelings run high on both sides, from comments such as “why not go the whole hog and ban cars from the whole of the city centre? Then businesses can go to the wall and maybe that’s the only way to get rid of this anti car council” to “women like to totter about in uncomfortable shoes especially in pleasant surroundings free from noisy diesel engines with plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars to visit” (apologies to practical shoe wearing women).
Nevertheless, at the moment these additional pedestrian areas are only temporary and because of the construction work going on, they certainly aren’t particularly attractive. I fondly remember walking through a major German City a number of years ago and being amazed by the floral mosaic on massive sheets of plywood straddling a major thoroughfare. My companion informed me that German city councils insist that if you are performing construction this ‘cover up’ has to be in place before you start. I am not suggesting that we should have our construction done under cover of darkness; but could we devise a similar method of adornment of ongoing works?
Most places are in a constant state of change. New developments are introduced and existing buildings and infrastructure has to be maintained and updated. Not too far away from where I’m typing I can see out of my 11th floor window a building site of magnificent proportions. I am referring to the Media City development out in Salford Quays, where the BBC and a host of other companies will relocate and change the industrial focus of the area from logistics to media and technology.
Their website has a decent collage of images of the area over the years, however, an IT company situated across the water has been cataloguing the development process in a number of weird and wonderful ways. My particular favourite is this 360 view.
With a bit of imagination I think you can see some aesthetics in the site, from the vivid use of ‘safety’ colours, such as bright orange and yellow and the contrast of the activity with the calmness of the canal maybe there is some beauty even in this beast.