Spongy cities are the future

Los Angeles is an unlikely champion of a new wave of water savvy urban planning. A city most of us think of as all about cars and concrete has introduced more permeable surfaces to soak up water rather than turning it into run off. The change has been so successful that not only was severe flooding avoided during recent extreme rainfall but it will help solve the city’s water supply issues.

Shalom Christian Church

Shalom Christian Church

It’s only in the last few years that I have been introduced to the concept of the “estate pub”- basic brick buildings providing booze in newer build areas. Functional, but far from attractive, many of them never got the chance to age into the character you expect of a good boozer, having been demolished already.

The Shalom Christian Church building has the look of estate pub thinking applied to a place of worship.

Shalom Christian Church

The “ramparts” at each corner provide more of an architectural flourish than most estate pubs were blessed with. Combined with the barbed wire along the roof line and the brieze blocks on the inside of the windows, it has an air of a fortress about it.

Shalom Christian Church

The biggest surprise- to me- was that the building isn’t as abandoned as the barricaded windows made me think. Walking past it yesterday morning, I was surprised to find the door open for the regular Sunday service. I didn’t look inside- that would have felt like prying (and I hadn’t had any breakfast yet, and was in a hurry to find food).

An architectural wander under the arches

I used to pass the little cluster of Mayfield units regularly when I lived in East Manchester, but never got around to photographing them. I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago, but only just remembered them. Some of the units were behind temporary fencing, and a licencing application zip tied to one of them suggests they’re going to be used for one of the events in this year’s Manchester International Festival.

An architectural wander around Langworthy 1

I went for a wander around the local area this afternoon to chat with some Green Party supporters. On the way, I found some interesting little corners of the ward.

Chaseley Road

Chaseley Road has this rather impressive gate at one end, which is a neat way to control traffic flow. I didn’t see if there was a matching one at the other end of the street, because I wandered down a little path towards some green space.

Salford Observatory

Where I found this. It’s the Salford Astronomical Societies Observatory. Not quite as cool as the observatory on top of the UMIST main building, but still quite a neat find.

Buile Hill Park greenhouse skeleton

Down the hill some more, I came to Buile Hill Park. When I worked in Irlams O’ The Heights, I’d cycle past the park on my commute, but never bothered going in. There was Buile Hill Hall itself, which I’ll have to go back and get photos of one day, and this impressive skeleton of a wood framed greenhouse.

Buile Hill Park greenhouse skeleton

Buile Hill Park greenhouse skeleton

It’s part of the Buile Hill Park Training and Garden Centre, and I think I can get closer shots if I visit some day when the centre is open, so that’s another reason to head back soonish.

I Will Eat Your Soul

Not from today’s wander, but I found this little bit of art adjustment in Chimney Pot Park on a similar jaunt on Friday.

All materials of value have been removed

I found the sad little row of houses, in the shadow of the being-demolished Pear Tree Court, on the way back from the pool yesterday, but didn’t have a camera with me. So I went back today to get a few photos.

There’s something about the phrase “All materials of value have been removed” that just screams book title to me. Something angry about privatisation, the erosion of British values by the sort of people who call for children to be taught them, a disaffected population and, probably, a riot. It’s a story I’ve been trying to find my way into since 2011, but I just can’t work out how to do it. If/when I do, I have the cover for it right here.

After taking a load of pictures of the houses and the tower block, I went off for a ride and found a few more interesting places to photograph. Use the arrows on the embed to navigate through the set.

If you want to own Palace Bingo, formerly the Victoria Theatre, then it could be yours for a mere £175,000. I suspect you’ll need a lot more than that to get it into a fit state to use it for anything again, though.

Vision of the future or criminal eyesore: what should Rio do with its favelas? | Cities | The Guardian

A fascinating look at the problems, and potential, of Brazil’s favelas.

For followers of post-modernism’s “new urbanism”, Rio is an exciting, infuriating place. As an urban form the favela is inherently robust, green and “sustainable”. It can offer high-density, low-cost living on locations penetrating the city centre and within reasonable reach of work. Its residents rely on walking and two-wheeled vehicles – taxis are ferocious motorbikes – creating close-knit, self-reliant communities in which ties of family and neighbour are strong. They delineate their own boundaries of loyalty and defensible space.

As a result the world flocks to study them. They have become intellectual works-in-progress to universities such as Pennsylvania, Columbia and the LSE. Pennsylvania even built its own campus “pop-up favela” for study purposes. A leading NGO champion, Theresa Williamson of Catalytic Communities, sees the favelas as the “ideal affordable housing stock”. Their buildings are mostly brick-built and sound, maximising every inch of space and fashioned to occupants’ needs. They are low-energy to a fault.

Vision of the future or criminal eyesore: what should Rio do with its favelas? | Cities | The Guardian.

Manchester then and now

Jacksons Warehouse-then

I’ve been taking photos of Manchester for nearly twenty-five years. When I went through the boxes of prints that I have, I came up with a plan to revisit some of the images and see what those places look like now.

Jacksons Warehouse-now

So, every so often, I’m going to grab the camera and go and take photos for the Now files and fill up the Manchester- Then and Now set. Scroll through them below, or follow the link for larger versions.

Should we knock down the Mancunian Way?

In 1point1 the future centre of Manchester had been changed by the destruction of a span of the elevated section of the Mancunian Way, with the now impassable remainder of its length converted to a garden in the sky. This was an interesting location at the time, rather than a serious suggestion, but this article about the benefits of removing inner city highways makes me wonder if it could be beneficial.

Floating cities

Floating cities seem like such an obvious location for a sci-fi story or video game. Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay has a William Gibson feel to it.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of one floating city in fiction, in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Time to add it to my list of locations for future stories.

Floating cities – in pictures | Cities |

Best of MCR…The Buildings That Were Never Built – Manchester Confidential

THERE ARE two Manchesters.

There’s the city of flesh and blood and bricks and mortar, and there’s a shadow city of dreams never realised, of foolish ambition mixed with missed opportunity.

It’s good to get lost there sometimes. Or maybe even imagine your own designs adding to our gloriously chaotic city centre.

via Best of MCR…The Buildings That Were Never Built | Best of Manchester | Manchester Confidential.

The Lost Buildings of Manchester

Every city has its lost buildings, lost to war, debt or “planning”. Manchester Confidential have dug up a few of Manchester’s.

Technically Bernard House has been described like this: ‘The building, a popular landmark in the centre of Manchester, has a unique roof which makes it a striking feature of the skyline. It is a timber structure of hyperbolic paraboloid form, comprising of a main rib element on each of the four axes of twin Glulam Beams.’ Curiously that loving description came from the demolition contractors. Did they feel guilty?

The replacement by Leslie Jones Architects brings shame on them. How could they have designed this bland, grey, sub-trading estate building for this key site? The person who came up with it should be made to run naked around Piccadilly Gardens once year as an example to other architects. What an idiot. What an example to cities of ‘be careful what you wish for’.

Best of MCR…The Lost Buildings | Best of Manchester | Manchester Confidential.

An architectural wander around Pendleton


At noon and six pm (and around 10 am on Sundays) church bells play a tune over Pendleton. I think this church, St. Thomas, is the culprit.

Heading east from St. Thomas, I found the first evidence of what would become a recurring theme.


The Pendleton Cooperative Industrial Society put their name to a lot of buildings in the area.

Post-industrial Pendleton seems to have mostly gone over to recycling based businesses. In its run-down, faded way, it reminded me of Ancoats and canal-side Manchester in the nineties and early noughties, though I’m not sure it will ever be rehabilitated and gentrified in the same way.


Laundry Street is just as sad and abandoned as the sign suggests.


This spire standing by itself in the middle of a housing estate intrigued me. Why was it left when the rest of the church was knocked down?


The rest of this building has been demolished, so all you get is the end of its name.


….and two different dates.

There are more images in the Pendleton Architectural Wander set, and more to explore. I’ll get on the bike some day and have a longer wander around the area.

Workington has an Opera House?

I just discovered this post about a campaign to save the historic Workington Opera House. I never knew that Workington had an Opera House, but it hasn’t been home to grand musical events since before I was born, was a bingo hall for many years and more recently- based upon the photo in the post- was the awesomely named Marrafruits grocer’s shop.

It’s so odd to find out details like this about a town I lived just down the road from for most of my childhood.

Lost in the Antarctic

I have an idea for a sci-fi/virus outbreak story that has become an almost permanent fixture on the “will do one day, honest” list. Parts of the backstory would probably take place in an abandoned Soviet science town. None of those in this impressive collection of images, but the desolation of some of these abandoned Antarctic outposts could serve as good reference for the art if the story becomes a comic as planned.