Organic Cities

Manchester 1774
Manchester 1774
Manchester 1842
Manchester 1842
Manchester 1924
Manchester 1924
Manchester 2000
Manchester 2000
Project date
11.10.2000
Type
Location
North West England
Clients
CUBE (Centre for the Urban and Built Environment)
Associated team members
Associated documents

These plans of Manchester were drawn for an exhibition in CUBE (Centre for the Understanding of the Built Environment) in Manchester in 2002. They were blown up to 2m square panels and entirely filled one of the galleries. They were later updated for CUBE's 2005 retrospective exhibition and have been used at the start of many of URBED's presentations because they so clearly sum up the story of British cities.

The four figure ground plans tell a story of the growth and decline of the city of Manchester. The 1774 plan shows a small market town with the only sign of what was to come being the Bridgewater Canal in the bottom left of the plan – the world's first canal.

The 1842 plan shows that the town grew modestly over the next 50 years. The canals were finished and the railways were about to arrive. However the city retained a traditional structure with the most affluent merchants still living in the centre and the poorer workers living on the edge.

The plan from the early 20th century shows the explosive growth of the city which doubled in size every decade in the second half of the 19th century. It was dense, dirty and unsanitary and the rich had long since fled to the world's first suburbs - Whalley Range and Victoria Park just visible at the bottom of the plan.

The 2000 plan is equally striking. It shows a city that has disintegrated since the Second World War. The main reason for this was the loss of more than half of its population who had followed the rich merchants to the suburbs. These émigrés include people decanted from inner city slum clearance areas to huge peripheral council estates such as Wythenshaw. This in turn led to the second cause of the disintegration, the efforts of planners, architects and highways engineers who rebuilt the inner city.

The final plan does however also show the green shoots of recovery if you look carefully including the emerging Hulme neighbourhood and redevelopment around the city centre.