Manchester’s Most Famous Architects : Part One

Lisa Raynes

by Lisa Raynes

15/03/2017, in Main Blog | Manchester Blog

Manchester architecture can be linked to some very famous names in the world of design and building. Some of them are architects from Manchester that were born and others just grew up here. Some are just connected to our city via projects that are linked to their famous name.

I do not hail from Manchester originally, and I’m fascinated to learn new facts every day about the town that I have chosen to make my home. Today, I was researching on some information about Manchester’s famous architects.

I made some fascinating discoveries, learning about the rich history of architects and architecture, from our Victorian past, to our modern present. Given the reputation of the architects in question, I’m reluctant to give a score or rank to the architects mentioned below, for obvious reasons. We can do a poll in future to see which on which of these architects are the most significant. 

To begin with, the first linked to Manchester that have found fame on a national level are Will Alsop and Terry Farrell.  They are both among the upper ranks of famous British architects of the 20th century.

Terry Farrell

James Bond's office, M16 Building, by Mancunian architect Terry Farrell

M16 Building, Vauxhall, South Bank, London, was designed by Terry Farrell

Terry Farrell  actually was born in Sale the southern part of Greater Manchester. He hasn’t become and Architect in Manchester  thought. Early on in his live he moved north to Newcastle upon Tyne and then to London. What Wikipedia say about Terry is that;

‘Terry began his professional career in 1961 at the architecture department of the London County Council, where he met fellow staff architect Nicholas Grimshaw.[2] The two became close friends, and in 1965 they founded the Farrell/Grimshaw Partnership, sharing their office for some time with Archigram.[3] The firm built a reputation in private sector urban regeneration, renovating old houses and factories to accommodate modern uses. They were also part of a “new wave” of British firms experimenting with high-tech architecture.[4] During this period Farrell/Grimshaw produced several pioneering works of high-tech, flexible buildings such as the 125 Park Road housing cooperative (1970) and the Herman Miller factory in Bath (1976), both of which have since been awarded Grade II listing by English Heritage.[5][6] Grimshaw left the firm in 1980 to found Grimshaw Architects, while Farrell continued to work from their Paddington Street office.

His connection to Manchester came with The Green Building that the architects Farrells designed. In 2006, the architects Farrells were awarded a Sustainable Civic Trust Award

His work received many awards, just to mentioned a few:

Will Alsop

Will Alsop is yet another famous architect’s name attached to Manchester. The connection is via New Islington’s  Chips building and Urban Splash

New Islington is one of the seven Millennium Communities Programme areas.

Will (William) Allen Alsop was born on the 12 December 1947, in Northampton, England.

There is a very colorful story of how Will Alsop became an architect and how he honed his drawing skills. I strongly recommend you search for it. Colours seems to be his main recognisable attribute.

Chips Iconic Apartment Buildings in Ancoats, Manchester, designed by Will Alsop

He is currently professor at the University for the Creative Arts‘s Canterbury School of Architecture. In 2000, he was awarded the Stirling Prize, the most prestigiousUK architecture award, for the Peckham Library in the south-east of London.

There is a very interesting note about Will Alsop on Wikipedia:

‘Alsop’s architectural talents may be the subject of controversy but he has managed to build up an international reputation and a certain degree of fame – he has been called “number three in the hierarchy of British architects after Lords Rogers and Foster“. Notwithstanding this, like fellow avantgardist Zaha Hadid, he has actualised relatively few buildings from his designs. Alsop has estimated that only about 10% of his designs have been built. However, this does not worry him because he enjoys designing buildings even when he has no particular commission or competition in mind. “It’s like tennis – you have to keep doing it all the time, whether you have a client or not. I believe that absolutely. You can speculate in your sketchbook – you’re allowed to think about anything, with or without a client.”[1]

In April 2007, The Observer commented that Alsop’s approach to architecture could broadly be defined by his statement: “I like people. I hope it shows.”[1] ‘

Those two architects are linked to our city indirectly. The following figures that I will mention will be home grown Manchester architects that settled and prospered within the borders of Manchester.

The next name that comes will be Ian Simpson. You can read it in the next episode of Manchester Most Famous Architects – Part Two.

Magda Haener