Greater Manchester’s Architectural Monstrosities: The Not So Perfect Ten

Ten terrible buildings and structures throughout Greater Manchester

You may well have heard of a prize known as the Carbuncle Cup. This year’s recipient is a mixed-used development in Woolwich, London. It is a TESCO Extra store topped by some rather grim looking flats.

I may run the risk of sounding like H.R.H. Prince Charles, but my views on architecture are the direct opposite to his (though I do have his A Vision of Britain book). Firstly, I like a lot of the buildings he has criticised such as the long demolished Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth. Secondly, I can never say a bad word about any building with Art Deco or Streamline Moderne leanings. Thirdly, I rank P.S. Stott and F.W. Dixon (early 20th century cotton mill architects) in the same category of Sir Norman Foster, G. Noel Hill and Erich Mendelsohn having been used to seeing Ashton’s and Oldham’s cotton mills on many a bus journey.

Today, some of the ‘satanic mills’ have been replaced with more profane architectural examples. Some of which buildings that lack harmony with its immediate surroundings. In Greater Manchester, there seems to be a fair number. Some of which may be the right sort of building, though in the wrong place.

East of the M60’s latest Not So Perfect Ten focuses on some of these Crimes Against Architecture, or Crimes Against Planning. Our ten is as follows:

  1. The Trafford Centre, Dumplington;
  2. Tameside Administration Centre, Wellington Road, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  3. Stalybridge Health Centre, Waterloo Road, Stalybridge;
  4. IKEA Manchester, Oldham Road/Wellington Road, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  5. Rodo Brushes, Langham Street, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  6. Greater Manchester police stations, Hyde, Ashton-under-Lyne and Harpurhey;
  7. Diamond Lodge, Hyde Road, Belle Vue;
  8. Zombie Car Parks, in and around Greater Manchester;
  9. Office Depot warehouse, off Lord Sheldon Way, Ashton-under-Lyne;
  10. Terraced houses, Halifax Road, Rochdale.

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1. The Trafford Centre: Intu’s establishment is set to an architectural style which Prince Charles is likely to favour, but its sprawling car parks may offend our fellow next in line for the throne. I find The Trafford Centre’s pastiche architecture offensive, redolent of Albert Speer’s works. It may bring joy to a lot of shoppers and have almost everything under one roof, but inside and outside it is vulgar. I loathe the sprawling nature, loathe its artifice, and its knowing contempt for public transport users and cyclists (its bus station is an Italianette afterthought next to Debenhams).

As a consequence, The Trafford Centre’s opening in 1998 has hit trade in Altrincham, Sale, Stockport and to some extent, Manchester city centre. Whereas Manchester has fought back, it is not unusual for anyone to complement their short break in Manchester with a trip to Intu’s edifice. I have no objections with that, each to their own. More than anything, it best epitomises the ‘Edge City’, being Manchester’s equivalent, also taking in MediaCityUK, the Trafford Park Industrial Estate and Lowry Centre.

2. Tameside Administration Centre: whereas The Trafford Centre is likely to be with us for some time to come, the Tameside Administrative Centre is months away from demolition. Opened in 1981, it replaced facilities devolved within the borough of Tameside. The yellow brick and brown roof was more in keeping with Tameside MBC’s then corporate colours than architectural harmony. In spite of these shortcomings, I loved the original early 1980s look in the entrance hall with its seating area and little newsagents. The Presto store underneath had a good little café. As for Fullmonte, there’s still an ageing security guard watching its shoppers – years after its closure (only kidding).

Locally, more to do with its tower block facing Turner Lane, it has been nicknamed the Dustbin. Owing to running costs, TAC will be no more by 2015, with the Son of TAC having more glass than brick. Parts of the building will be shared with Tameside College, whose town centre campus will include a new building on Camp Street.

And Stalybridge Town Hall was partially sacrificed for this… no justice in the world of architecture.

3. Stalybridge Health Centre: in place of a former primary school and community centre (a lovely 1930s building) is the town’s health centre. Opened in 2008, it replaced the previous clinic which overlooked the River Tame. By contrast, the previous building was typically 1960s, but the generous windows afforded its patients of riverside views. The present building, looks like a cross between a brick sofa and a telephone. It has no sense of being, it is a building waiting to happen.

Though the facilities inside may be state of the art, this doesn’t detract from the fact it neither blends in with its surroundings, nor improves on its position in the town centre. The 1960s clinic site remains unoccupied. Could this be a good spot for a future Stalybridge Town Council H.Q. or an Arts Centre?

4. IKEA Manchester: Ashton-under-Lyne’s IKEA store: a great place for meatball lovers, cost-conscious design fanatics and… getting lost in. I love the fact IKEA’s in Ashton and is only a short bus ride away. In spite of its convenience, it is the store’s architectural setting which I am not impressed with. More so the case of ‘right building, wrong location’. So much so that its blue and yellow cladding can be seen clearly from Werneth Low and Hough Hill. Other than that (courtesy of personal experience from a few friends of mine), it has blocked out natural light for residents on Keane Street, looking towards the Old Lanky line to Manchester Victoria.

Whilst we’re still on Oldham Road…

5. Rodo Brushes: ditto the above with ‘right building, wrong location’. Their new warehouse is both unadventurous and incongruous. It seems to be hopelessly out of scale with the terraced houses on Oldham Road and Langham Street. It seems to be as high as the long demolished cotton mill close to Grosvenor Electrical’s depot.

On the site of this building was Ashton’s first ASDA store, which was used by Rodo Brushes shortly after relocation in 1989. Ashton Lyne Motors would take over part of the car park having moved from the site occupied by today’s ASDA car park. Today, Rodo’s new warehouse occupies both parts of the former sites.

6. Greater Manchester police stations (Hyde, Ashton-under-Lyne, Harpurhey): there is one project which links this trio of police stations with Stalybridge Health Centre: the Private Finance Initiative. In a bid to improve outdated facilities, Greater Manchester Police turned to Equion whom in 2002, won a PPP/PFI contract to build 16 police stations in Greater Manchester. By 2004, new police stations opened up in Ashton-under-Lyne, Hyde and Harpurhey. The first two are virtually identical. The third is a lesser equivalent.

If you took away the blue lamp from its entrance, you could be forgiven for thinking they belonged to a sports club’s changing pavilion. With the office blocks at their bigger stations, a rather anonymous office block. Each of the sixteen buildings have barrel vaulted tin roofs. Though much noise was made over its architectural shortcomings, there has been improvements in service delivery. The only issue is that externally, they are about as bland as a heavy drinking session on Carling.

7. Diamond Lodge (Hyde Road, Belle Vue): there is nothing more slovenly than the disposable nature of budget hotel architecture. Obviously, with the emphasis on profit some of them resemble elongated Barratt homes. For me, it is not so the ephemeral nature of the building, but more so what was on there before. A much better building with greater historical interest.

On the site of the Diamond Lodge was the Belle Vue Lakes Hotel, part of the long gone and much loved Belle Vue Zoological Gardens and Amusement Park. After the park’s closure, Burtonwood Brewery took over the Belle Vue Lakes Hotel, but it closed in the late 1980s, and remained closed for a number of years prior to demolition. Now, if they kept the original building, that could have made a good pub for a neighbouring Premier Inn. Or one of J.D. Wetherspoon’s establishments.

8. Zombie Car Parks: not strictly a building in the literal sense, but zombie car parks seem to be a right nuisance. Targeting cost-conscious motorists with long stay parking fees the same price as a single operator Day Rover ticket, they are not only a blot on the landscape. They affect rent values of nearby commercial premises and blight the area’s immediate surroundings.

From a safety point of view, dubious thanks to the opportunist nature of the operators and choice of sites. The worst one I would say at the moment is on the site of New Broadcasting House on Oxford Road. To think we gave up the home of Cheggers Plays Pop for an uneven parking space or more is risible.

9. Office Depot warehouse: staying with the subject of car-centred architecture, Ashton Moss has it in spades nowadays. There is a mix of slightly good, nondescript and downright awful. In the third category is Office Depot’s warehouse, designed with lorries in mind rather than humans. Owing to, as you would expect, its proximity to Junction 23 of the M60 motorway.

On what is now hailed as a route to the east, Ashton Moss was at one time best known for its market gardens. Its peat was the finest for miles around; fresh produce from Ashton Moss would be sold on Ashton Market. Arthur Gent along with Bill Sowerbutts was among our area’s horticultural aristocracy. The junction of Lord Sheldon Way/Manchester Road and man made pond stands on the site of Arthur Gent’s garden centre. Today’s garden centre is part of a chain opposite The Sheldon Arms, with its building resembling a London Docklands Railway terminal.

10. Terraced houses (55 – 63 Halifax Road, Rochdale): by the end of this article you would have noticed a constant pattern behind the ten entries. That of profit. Profit ahead of thinking of our local centres as a whole. Also the throwaway society. John Ruskin’s  ‘When we build…’ quote well and truly out of the window. The very epitome of this for me is five terraced houses on Halifax Road, Rochdale. Not Victorian ones, but modern day terraced houses.

Though they may have central heating, UPVC windows and rear gardens, they look like modern day slums. For me, it is the off-street car parking at the front that offers no privacy between neighbours. They seem to be smaller than the Victorian terraced houses on either side. It is also worth noting how modern day dwellings are smaller than equivalents built 30 – 50 years ago – and contemporary mainland European equivalents. Every time I see these houses through the window of a Yorkshire bound bus, I see part of my Qi sap.

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Architectural Atrocities? Feel free to add to the list

Feel free to comment on the above ten, or add a few more examples to the list. Ideally some contemporary examples, though we welcome some entries from the past.

S.V., 05 September 2014.


2 thoughts on “Greater Manchester’s Architectural Monstrosities: The Not So Perfect Ten

Add yours

  1. Another to add to your list, the Job Centre/DSS building, Hyde.
    As a user of the bus station, which assume you are, this monstrosity towers over the town, comparable in crimes-against-architecture to Ashton’s ‘Oakglade House’.


    1. Hi Patrick,

      Did you know that Hyde Jobcentre Plus was originally a multi-storey car park? The DHSS Office had previously been at Orient House, where AsOne Design are based. Its Job Centre (before the Benefits Agency moved Job Centres to DSS offices) was on the corner of Market Street and Borough Arcade (now a craft shop).

      I agree with it being a monstrosity. Perhaps it is made menacing enough to put off potential claimants (as if sanctions and Universal Credit’s Claimant Commitment isn’t bad enough).

      Bye for now,



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