Why Redrock Stockport Deserves Its Carbuncle Cup Award

It may look great inside but the complex gives a poor outward approach to a great Cheshire town

Before I start my architectural pontifications/criticism/rant, I shall own up to one thing: I have never been to Stockport’s Redrock complex. I have passed it on numerous occasions by train, by coach, and on the 330 bus out of Mersey Square. Each time I have passed it, I have felt deflated.

I have never had the inclination to call into The Light Sociable Cinema nor any of its casual dining outlets. The Garrick and the Plaza Super Cinema have drawn me to Stockport. Staircase House and the town’s fine pubs are another excuse for my visit.

The £45 million project which includes a multi-storey car park was built to regenerate the town centre. Where the development excels is in its position in the town centre. The Grand Central development was too far to be of any great use for shoppers. Redrock succeeds in being close to the Merseyway Shopping Centre, hence its popularity with local residents. It is also good for local bus routes, whereas Grand Central was fine for the train.

As for its looks, don’t go there.

Whereas Redrock Stockport is not guilty of crimes against public transport accessibility, its architectural crimes are pretty heinous.

“It’s not red and there’s no rocks in it…”

The Redrock development is named after the town’s sandstone rocks. As a help, the caves served as air raid shelters in the Second World War. As a hinderance, construction of the M63 motorway led to the closure of the Tiviot Dale CLC railway line in 1980 (when Portwood tunnel was breached).

Whether seen from ground level on foot or from a passing plane, you cannot miss the Redrock development. From the motorway it looks like a collection of sheds. Through the window of a passing 330, an awful postmodern take on 1960s architecture drawn in freehand form. From a passing train, four gargantuan takeaway containers. A development which appears to be ephemeral. What’s worse is the best looking building happens to be the multi storey car park.

It is probably not the worst looking building in Greater Manchester though awful all the same. IKEA Manchester and Rodo Brushes’ warehouse – both in Ashton-under-Lyne – are worse. As quasi-public buildings go, Redrock is truly awful. Instead of complementing the town centre, its concrete and steel stance impedes on the Cheshire town with brute force. As a shop window for passing motorists, it doesn’t perform its role too well.

Viewed from Prince’s Street its brute force mars the view of the titular red rock and hovers over the town centre like a giant fossilised turd. One with few windows from its Bridgefield Street end.

Why Redrock is a worthy winner of the Carbuncle Cup award

In my view, regeneration schemes should be architecturally sensitive to its surrounds and energy efficient, as well as providing much needed investment in their locality. Architecturally, I have seen better looking nuclear bunkers than the Redrock Development. Even the original form of Manchester Arndale Centre had more redeeming features including Cannon Street Bus Station. Thanks to a small rooftop housing estate, it even had more grass than Redrock.

No wonder a reader of Building Design magazine claimed to have seen better looking prisons. The judges for the 2018 Carbuncle Cup said:

“Urban regeneration can be a good thing. But when it becomes an excuse to foist bad architecture on to struggling communities in the cynical pursuit of an ‘anything is better than what was there before’ methodology, it simply recycles the resentment regeneration was supposed to redress.”

Going off their claim, Redrock Stockport is probably on course to win the 2019 and 2020 competitions. And keep the Carbuncle Cup trophy as a permanent possession. The original nominator was more tacit with their words:

“One of the most horrendous architectural responses ever conceived for Greater Manchester.”

Whoever the original nominator is, have a pint on me. To save you the joys of seeing Redrock Stockport, I fully recommend The Boars Head or Baker’s Vaults.

Redrock may have a lot of things going for it inside its artless exterior. One of its great plus points is the cinema’s proximity to the main shopping centre and bus station. Had the architects and engineers looked at the Oldham Town Hall scheme, Stockport’s place in the hall of architectural infamy wouldn’t have been sealed.

A missed opportunity? Too right it is. A case of ‘back to the drawing board’. In the words of Orange Juice…

S.V., 05 September 2018.

33 Comments Add yours

  1. pubcurmudgeon says:

    It’s an urban myth that the M6 extension killed off the Tiviot Dale railway line. In fact the route was preserved – it was the closure of the Woodhead Line that did for it.

    Quite a few of the retail/restaurant units in Redrock are still undeveloped, including the one earmarked forGourmet Burger Kitchen. Sadly, particularly after the closure of M&S, the town centre is looking very tatty and run-down at present.

    Liked by 1 person

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