Manchester to get Tower of Light
Many cities around the world are seeing their populations swell as more and more people become urbanised and move to the most built up areas. In response to the inevitable housing difficulties this creates, cities are building vertically instead of horizontally in an attempt to maximise the available space; Manchester is no exception to this trend.
The city has been the recipient of a seemingly endless procession of identikit residential towers which will crowd the city centre skyline significantly in years to come if they end up being built. Manchester is an interesting case because, unlike London, the city does not have a tall buildings policy to contextualise the skyline. Instead, each new tower is judged only on its individual merits and nothing else. This has led to many extremely similar – some might say lazily similar – proposals which could leave Manchester with an unimaginative and uninspiring skyline.
However, one recent city centre project is bucking the trend. Manchester City Council has been working with Vital Energi, a sustainable energy supplier, to draw up plans for the Manchester Civic Quarter Heat Network. This combined heat and power system will provide efficient low-carbon energy to Manchester Art Gallery, Central Library, Manchester Central, St. Peter’s Square and the Midland hotel amongst others, thereby taking a lot of the strain off the city centre power grid and improving Manchester’s carbon footprint well into the future.
This is all very worthy, but the most interesting part of the 26.7 MW capacity network is its dispersion system. The 40 metre tall chimney will be a highly visible landmark in the city centre and therefore required an intriguing design to stop it becoming an eyesore in one of the more attractive parts of Manchester. Tonkin Liu, an innovative architectural practice based in London, stepped up to the plate and created a proposal for a ‘Tower of Light’. This tower will encase the chimney dispersion system in a stainless steel lace structure made from 3-6mm thick laser cut sheets of metal. The effect should be fairly breath-taking when it is completed in 2019.
As per the architect: “Within the immediate surrounding context of exemplar engineering projects of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Tower of Light will be an exemplar 21st-century structure for Manchester. It is an ultra-lightweight, vertical single-surface structure whose form is its strength, using the least material to achieve the most”.
This should be one to watch. In a city which has a fine history of design, the Tower of Light should fit right in whilst updating the built environment for the modern era.
More details and CGI images of the tower can be found on the Tonkin Liu website.