Manchester Urban Evolution: The Compact, Walkable City

Session: Track B, Session 7: The Challenge of Context: Towers and the Creation of Public, Walkable Space

Ian SimpsonProject image

Ian Simpson
Co-Founding Partner, SimpsonHaugh

How can density via tall buildings contribute and achieve innovative regeneration in cities like Manchester, England? One of the world’s first industrial cities, Manchester played a prominent role in the Industrial Revolution for around 100 years. It became known as the world’s largest marketplace for cotton goods and was labelled “Cottonopolis” and “Warehouse City” during the Victorian era.

At the peak of the Industrial Revolution, the city was dense and highly populated with around 455,000 people living in the center, but as industry declined, these numbers significantly reduced with many migrating away from the city center to seek work and escape high levels of pollution. By the mid-1990s,approximately 400 people were remaining in the city core.

In 1996, the Manchester City Council launched an architectural competition to masterplan the rebuilding of the city, after it suffered from the biggest bombing attack in the UK since the Second World War. This led to the creation of a development and investment framework and a unique opportunity to reimagine the city core as a pivotal moment in Manchester’s regeneration story.

As a critical component within this repopulation, the historically derelict and underused brownfield sites surrounding the city center are providing the opportunity to introduce tall, high density, residential buildings, often set within extensive public realms, and facilitating the evolution of new, thriving, mixed-use destinations. This transformation is also driving the creation of the UK’s first compact, walkable city – a city in which the population can live, work, and play within a 15-to-20-minute walking radius – a truly sustainable model for the future.