Manchester: The UK’s new capital of architecture and why it matters

There’s more than a little history in this wonderful city. Growing as a town since its charter was granted in 1301, Manchester stands today as the UK’s next big city.

It’s been the beneficiary of staggering government investment, rated in 2019 as the ‘most liveable city in the UK’, and recognised as the fastest-growing tech city in 2020. It’s diverse, buzzing and full of a rich history that’s expressed through the many styles of commercial and residential architecture found in its streets and communities.

We’re fortunate to work in its streets and on its roofs and walls regularly. Today we’re touching on the history of the city. Let’s look at what it is, why it matters and just how a place grows over time into something quite this special.

Manchester in the early days

The role a city plays in the wider economy can be seen through its buildings – even those dating back hundreds of years. In the good old days of the 16th century, Manchester was flourishing for a reason that might surprise the modern resident and visitor: wool.

With so much trade tied to the country and Europe, its flourishing began early. And as the industrial era truly took off, advances in cotton products such as fustian, a linen and cotton hybrid material, ensured that the city’s rise would continue for years to come.

All this business means buildings. Progressing into a bustling processing and trade-oriented hub, we can see the need for access and material reflected in the construction of the city’s numerous canals, which began construction as early as 1762 when the city was linked by water with Mersey and Liverpool. Its very first cotton mill was built in 1780, hailing in a period when the city was known to be ‘steam-mill mad’! Commerce and industry were here to stay, the mills and buildings housing such booming commerce often still standing to this day.

Diversity, growth, and tall buildings!

As a city like this grows, it invariably follows the trends of the time. Diversification happens, with different industries and the professionals that support them flocking to what steadily becomes a prized place to live and raise families in.

As the 19th century rolled onward, the industrial and commercial focus on cotton manufacturing dwindled. In its place, we can see from the more modern buildings of Manchester just what took its place: brick-built factories and the road, rail and canal networks that supported their use, such as the imposing Great Northern structure that served as a docking and transhipment hub. Nowadays, that same building is the Great Northern leisure complex – quite the change!

We can see similar glimpses into the meteoric industrial rise of Manchester in other buildings still around to this day, from the famous water feature at Bridgewater Hall, once an underground freight canal, through to the Radisson Edwardian Hotel which was first built to serve as a Free Trade Hall for the manufacturing elite of the Victorian era.

Caring for Manchester’s history – stone and façade cleaning and restoration

It’s easy for us to take our buildings for granted. A city as busy as Manchester is always bustling, with ever-expanding tech and commercial industries attracting career-minded adults and families seeking a great place to put down roots.

The structures that make such a present possible, however, need continual care and attention if we want them to last their longest and look their best. The See Brilliance team has been part of this effort for some time, working recently on two important and iconic buildings in the city.

The ABC building: Built initially in the sixties, the ABC building reflects an eclectic time in Manchester’s history where technology, popular culture and the political climate all collided to produce new architectural styles such as Formalism and Brutalism. Split into three sections (A, B and C, surprisingly!) this iconic commercial structure boasts a striking glass-heavy façade that our teams were happy to restoratively clean.

Work on a structure like that invariably requires specialist equipment or machinery to scale and navigate, from mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) to abseiling. Using our hallmark deep-restorative-cleaning products that are environmentally friendly and gentle to surfaces, our work saw us bring the façade’s window frames back to their former glory.

Circle Square: You can get a sense of the kind of growth Manchester experiences by the residential developments it attracts. Circle Square is one of those, being a 2.4 million-square-foot development in a striking modern style.

Built to house a complete range of residential, student, retail, leisure and commercial areas, the £750 million project offers over a thousand apartments alongside exciting new projects such as the valuable Manchester Tech Incubator.

And you guessed it, all that modern bustle needs regular TLC to look its best and avoid the accumulation of debris and dirt that can cause damage over time. See Brilliance worked in a unique role at Circle Square, helping property owners and developers with consultancy and advice on how to best remove concrete spills that can erode and threaten its extensive façades and cladding.

Discover the art of restorative cleaning

It’s interesting to dig a little into the past of such a major part of our country and heritage. Our team has done some great work around Manchester over the years and we’re proud to help modern businesses and Heritage sites with stone cleaning, commercial façade restoration, graffiti removal, and other restorative cleaning services.

See Brilliance has over 30 years of experience in restorative commercial cleaning of metal, glass and stone. We provide commercial facade and cladding restoration, restorative cleaning services, TORC Cleaning, DOFF Steam Cleaning, graffiti removal, and much more, all across the UK.

If you’d like to get in touch today, call our team directly on 01635 230 888 or email info@seebrilliance.com.

Download the See Brilliance 2021 brochure