Manchester’s skyline will be welcoming many new buildings in the next few years, but will also be saying goodbye to others.
The most notable of these is the Mathematics Tower, part of the Manchester University.
Opened in late 1968, the Maths Tower was the tallest of several university highrises built in Manchester during the campus modernisation of the 1960s, and perhaps the most interesting one too.
Standing 18 floors tall with black brick cladding on two sides, and undulating grey sections on the other, it is said to have been inspired by a ruler. It makes a bold statement on the skyline, it's unusual shape giving it a different appearance from every angle, marking the hub of Manchester’s education sector for miles around. Scherrer and Hicks Architects designed it with a series of setback and indents to deflect the traffic noise from Oxford Road, which the tower fronts onto, to create a better environment for learning. It's individuality set it apart from the abundance of bland structures that went up during the concrete invasion of the 1960s and 1970s.
It has been subject to many wild rumours throughout the years. One claimed that it was inadvertently built the wrong way round; another said it was mistakenly built atop a giant underground boulder, making it unstable. Every time the building began to lean calculations were done and heavy weights on the roof were moved to keep the tower standing, or so the legend goes.
Fast forward to March 2005 and the story is very different, the building stands empty as the workmen descend to dismantle it piece by piece. Its own department voted it ‘unfit for purpose’, which is understandable. Such tall buildings are impractical for moving large numbers of students around during busy times, and the floorplates are said to be too small for the current needs of the university.
The towers death warrant was effectively signed in October 2004 when UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) merged with the Manchester Victoria University, to create the biggest university in the UK as part of 'Project Unity'.
As a result of Project Unity the combined institution is spending around £300 million modernising it's campuses to try and capitalise on it's increasingly upstanding reputation and prominent position as one of the UKs best universities.
Unfortunately for fans of the Maths Tower, it is first in line for redevelopment. It occupies a prime piece of land at the heart of the university, opposite Alfred Waterhouse's stunning Owens Building (now the Manchester Museum), opened in 1898 as the original Victoria University building.
The demolition, started in March 2005, is the tallest ever undertaken in Manchester, and will take several months. Because of it's proximity to Oxford Road and nearby buildings, it cannot be imploded, and so will be slowly dismantled.
It will not be the only university highrise to bite the dust either, the university is considering selling off some of it's buildings for private redevelopment, most likely the 17 storey Mathematics & Social Sciences Building, and the 18 storey halls of residence tower, Chandos Hall. If sold they will presumably be demolished and their sites built upon.
The Mathematics Tower will leave behind a legacy of 60s ambition, and of brutal, unforgiving architecture for the thousands of students that were taught within it's walls during it's 36 years.
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