Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Toast Rack


Hollings Campus, Manchester Metropolitan University, originally uploaded by Trevira. Please click on this picture for the full view (I'm never going to use flickr's 'blog this' button again - the picture never fits!)

When I first moved up to Manchester in 2004 this building really caught my eye.

Its in Fallowfield just off the Wilmslow Road which, if you keep on heading north along it, takes you through the famous Curry Mile, and then tranforms into Oxford Road as you hit Manchester city centre. This road is one of the main arteries into Manchester, and has the multiple bus routes (and regular traffic queues) to prove it.

I was told that it is known locally as the toast-rack because of the row of swooping open parabolas at the crest of the building.

Its a building that is like Marmite - you either love it or hate it (check the comments on the original flickr page to see at least one dissenter).

Some credit is due: this marvel was designed by the architect L.C. Howitt in 1958, and opened in 1960.

By some strange twist of fate, I found myself based here about a year after my move to Manchester, so I had the chance to explore it more fully as a registered student. And I have to confess I'm still starry-eyed about it.

Its an extraordinary building, but its showing its age now and is increasingly inadequate for the volume of students that are flooding into this campus, not to mention the technical difficulties of updating an early 60s building for the demands of the 21st century.

Another problem is that in high winds those prominent ribs generate an eery and noisy howl that can compete with the most determined lecturer, and is seriously distracting for exam candidates.

I'd like to hope that it still has a future with the Manchester Metropolitan University which currently occupies it, or at least a sympathetic new owner who will respect its grade two listing.

Whatever its future holds, it remains a rare example (in the generally architecturally conservative UK) of an architect being allowed to follow his fancy and build an optimistic and ambitious vision of the space age future.

Anne of I Like fame has written a great account of it here, and there's also this fabulous film from British Pathé, made in 1961, extolling the virtues of its original tenant - the Domestic and Trades College:

COLLEGE FOR TRADES


4 comments:

fauxbrit13 said...

Sassy! Great post. My husband even recognized the pic on my screen! He commented about going there on school field trips when he was MUCH younger in primary school!

Thanks!

Sarah said...

Cheers B! Its certainly an iconic building - you can't miss it!

Nell said...

Iconic indeed.

Have you seen this Habitat print of the toast rack?

http://habitaten.artgroup.com/mall/productpage.cfm/HabitatEN/955505/298792

In a series with the Trellick Tower, Battersea Power Station and the South Bank Centre.

(Eleanor)

Sarah said...

Nice to see you Eleanor!

Before I clicked on your link I was just thinking "that sounds like the kind of thing People Will Always Need Plates do - Trellick Tower, Barbican - love their stuff."

And then I click the link and it is them! Very, very nice. I had to check on their site to see if they did a (more affordable) mug or plate but unfortunately it doesn't look like it.

But they do have mugs with the recently dismantled 'B of the Bang' so at least there's one Manchester icon.

And I've fallen in love with these Trellick Tower textile bowling bags:

http://www.peoplewillalwaysneedplates.co.uk/images/MSbowling.jpg