Manchester’s most polished new building: 25-27 Dale Street


Jonathan Schofield on a building in the North Quarter that could be a development plan

It’s just good manners to pay attention to those around you, to be polite, and to listen as much as you talk.

We can fail completely sometimes, and I should know that, but that’s the ambition.

A lesson in how to build a distinctly modern building that respects context and location

As with civil society, so with buildings and cities. Architectural etiquette can let other buildings breathe. The North Ward won a good manners example peach at 25-27 Dale Street. It is a model for future development here and may allay some of the fears of the tall tower walk in this well known and distinctive neighborhood between Shudehill and Ducie Street.

Close-up of the facade of 25-27 Dale Street
Image: Confidential


Self-proclaimed North Ward commentators and various councilors felt sweats in the tall towers due to Salboy’s 18-story commercial development called Glassworks. This project designed by Manc-practical Jon Matthews Architects is a bit naughty geographically (a little) as it sits on the northern side of Shudehill and towers over the Georgian-era Lower Turks Head pub almost as crudely as the ridiculous Apex Tower could do it. protection of the Britons.

There are, however, mitigations for Glassworks due to its location. It sits directly over the road from the rear wall of the Manchester Arndale multi-storey car park. Architecturally, it’s heckling here. The other side of Shudehill, in particular, is a jumble of buildings of varying heights and masses, including a large vacant lot. So while Glassworks doesn’t give too much of an 18-story finger to the North Quarter’s established street pattern, it must be a case so far and no further for the towers’ encroachment into the area.

Shudehill New Cgi
The tower that crossed the road from the northern district
Picture: Salboy

Transmission House – ‘a good piece’

Firmly in the northern district itself is a building completed during the lockdown. This is Transmission House with 183 apartments for sale or to let, again by Salboy, designed by Coventry-based IDP Architects. This is between the Unicorn and Afflecks pub on Church Street and is a real piece. Ok, it matches both the old Debenhams on Market Street behind the site and the original element of the Light Building next door so it plays at having good architectural manners but then it all goes wrong.

Transmission House presents a horribly unsubtle, uninteresting and overbearing front on both Church Street and Tib Street. The ground floor is an absolutely zero structure of brick cladding. The rusty old Tib Street Horn that stood on the site, slightly corroded, was a bit rubbish and Steptoe & Son but at least it had some character, this building lacks that.

Transmission House Dale Street Gap 2
Transmission House, the big blob with the unfortunate name
Image: Confidential

Indeed, Transmission House offers the opposite of architectural good manners. It assaulted nearby streets and created threatening canyons to the south and west over Bridgewater Place and Joiner Street. Fittingly, he has a blood brother, 50 years apart, squatting across Church Street in the shape of an ugly, disastrous 1970s multi-storey car park.

By the way, it was a little unfortunate that Transmission House, which no doubt references the Joy Division track of the same name (hey, it’s Manchester you know and Joy Division came from here), started admitting residents just as Hapless Johnson announced the 2020 Lockdown for Covid-19. Transmission House, not the best time for this title.

Falconer Chester Hall
Transmission House’s blood brother. What were the seventies color charts and beige and brown?
Image: Confidential

25-27 Dale Street – “Manchester’s most polished new building”

From Transmission House, Church Street becomes Dale Street and everything changes with the new architecture of 25-27. This building is owned by a practice in Liverpool (they have an office in Manchester) called Falconer Chester Hall (FCH). It is both the most polished new building in Manchester city centre, unmistakably modern and unmistakably an addition. This is architectural etiquette at its finest.

Previously on the site stood a classic 1880s textile warehouse in the Renaissance “palazzo” style, likely derived from the practice of the prolific architects Manc Clegg & Knowles. Then in 2007, it caught fire, the building became unsanitary and for twelve years we first had a brickyard surrounded by palisades and then a parking lot on the surface.

BBC website by Alan Townley
The fire at the old 25-27 Dale Street that left the site empty for over a decade
Image: BBC by passerby Alan Townley

Today, FCH architects have restored this gap-toothed section of Dale Street to a bright smile. The building is commercial (which is admittedly different from an apartment building) with space for a bar, restaurant, cafe or retail on the ground floor and in the basement. There are five office floors above and a roof terrace. The client was Kamani Commercial Property, part of the vast Manchester-based Boohoo. Boohoo and all of its offshoots are known for many things but never restraint, so how 25-27 Dale Street has performed may come as a surprise.

Take a look at some of the proportions here. Pull out a ruler and hold it against the ledge line of the building in the foreground and pass it to the north side of Dale Street. It’s like a drawing course in perspective with all the cornices of the different buildings aligned, including the new one stylized. Lay the ruler in the street on the cord between the ground floor and the first floor and the trick is repeated.

Falconer Chester Hall Dale Street 6 Copy
A Matter of Perspective, Follow the Lines: Architectural Manners Dance Together in Dale Street
Image: Confidential

Notice now how the treatment on the ground floor changes from that of the upper five floors and notice how the same is with the older neighbors. Note, again, how the retained entrance of the old building, despite its totally different style, has been married to the new building by FCH. The 25-27 also does not jump forward or backward from the old construction line, breaking the rhythm of the street, it joins the party and shakes hands with its neighbors. Remember that the buildings on either side belonged to different architectures and owners from different periods over 30 years, but applied the principle of architectural etiquette.

Of course, the treatment of the facade of 25-27 Dale Street is totally different from its companions. It is clad in Cor-ten steel, which should fade to orange to match the frequently noted red brick “look” of the city. As I’ve written before when scaled correctly, as with Stephenson Hamilton Risley’s magnificent Halle St Peter expansion, Cor-Ten looks splendid. Juries have adjudicated on towers clad in Cor-Ten panels like Simpson Haugh Architects’ River Street Tower. This and buildings such as Oxid House on Great Ancoats Street (again IDP Architects) perhaps go too far and look very off limits.

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Halle St Peter’s, another smaller scale and an excellent example of Cor-Ten use
Image: Confidential

You might complain that FCH made their building a pastiche and used too much material with things like the white cladding of Little Lever Street. You would be wrong. It’s not pastiche, it’s clever, playing with the accepted late 19th and early 20th century practice in the narrow streets of Manchester’s warehouse districts of using white glazed bricks in an attempt to add light.

Falconer Chester Hall Dale Street 2
White siding on Little Lever Street
Image: Confidential
25 27 Dale Street Neighboring building Manchester
White glazed brick just across Little Lever Street on buildings over 100 years old
Image: Confidential

David George from FCH said: “We were aware of the sensitivity of the site as it is part of the Stevenson Square Conservation Area and we wanted to deliver a program that was respectful of its local context.”

FCH has more than achieved this. Kudos to them. The building is a good model for the future development of the northern district. Just like the strange carved head above the old entrance. It sticks out the tongue for those who fail to work with the history of a site in an old place.

Transmission House Dale Street Gap 4
The entrance to the building that caught fire sports a man with his tongue out
Image: Confidential
Transmission House Dale Street Gap 6
Blue Tit’s empty lot: hope the lessons of 25-27 Dale Street will be learned when it’s filled
Image: Confidential

Finally, and speaking of development models.

There’s a very well-known empty lot sporting a large Blue Tit mural just around the corner from Newton Street. There are others scattered around the city. Let 25-27 Dale Street be the measure by which we judge redevelopment at these other sites both within and outside the North Quarter.

As art historian John Archer wrote in Art and architecture in Victorian Manchester from Manchester University Press (1985): “Many buildings had a common purpose with similar characteristics, a standard height of around sixty or seventy feet (18-21 m), a common range of materials and a related vocabulary of well-executed details. All of this made for consistency, but the influence of very talented designers cannot be ignored.”

25-27 Dale Street underscores these points in the 21st century. This building is a lesson in how to build a distinctly modern building, in terms of aesthetics and scale, while respecting the context and consistency of the street.

Jonathan Schofield will lead a guided tour of the North Quarter, its architecture and its stories on Sunday June 26 at 1 p.m. It will include this building.

Read next: ‘Life is better by the water’: a tour of the Rochdale Canal Art Trail

Read again: Battle for The Britons Protection: individuality v the fade

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