Sunday, 11 December 2011

The End: Warehouse

Copyright Jack Penford Baker

Copyright Jack Penford Baker

Copyright Jack Penford Baker

Copyright Jack Penford Baker

Copyright Jack Penford Baker

Copyright Jack Penford Baker

Copyright Jack Penford Baker

Copyright Jack Penford Baker

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Business School vs Business School

Image Copyright to UofM
The University of Manchester, in collaboration with Bruntwood, have released information on the proposed phased development of what is to become an expanded Business School along the Oxford Road Corridor.

The plans come as MMU's very own new Business School reaches the final stage of construction, with an opening date set for the summer of 2012. The 2 institutions look to promote the importance and growth of Business in Manchester, as the city looks to a service-led developments to act as a backbone to it's economy.

Image Copyright of MMU
The University of Manchester's scheme looks to expand the current Business School, housed in the University Precinct, with a £60million budget for new conference facilities, a four star hotel and an executive education centre for the training programs which the University have for external corporate clients.

Bruntwood is the only name mentioned in the press release, however it appears that BDP are the chosen architect for the scheme. There vast portfolio of educational-orientated work over the past 50 years puts them in a great position to deliver a much needed refresh to the school. However the shift away from student based development perhaps shows where the University of Manchester is looking to expand and grow on a more economical level. The joint venture with Bruntwood highlights the University's desire for commerciality. Bruntwood own a significant share of commercial property in Manchester, and there expansion down the Oxford Road Corridor perhaps signifies a change in the future of Universities in the country, moving towards an entirely privatised outfit of further education in the UK.   

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Rashid Rana + Asia Triennial At Cornerhouse


Last Friday saw the openings of Rashid Rana’s first major public show, titled ‘Everything Is Happening At Once’, and the Asia Triennial Manchester 11 at the keystone of modern art in Manchester, Cornerhouse.

Rana’s exhibition is an accumulation of his work from 2006 to present. His work looks to blend the line between the viewers perception of imagery. With the use of uniform grids, and matrixes of phenomenal quantity of photos, Rana challenges his cultural heritage with underlining layers hidden within the scale, only visible up close, a blur and unreadable at a glance. Particularly in Gallery 2, ‘Between Flesh and Blood’, there is a collection of works that challenge culturally and politically the perception of multi-culture and unified world. At a far the space appears to be littered with great mosaics and carpets from Asia, yet up close you begin to see their true detail, and a new layer is revealed. Small images build up the bigger picture, images of slaughtered animals manifest themselves into a beautiful Persian carpet. A typical mosaic begins to fade into a sea of tiled pornographic images, only visible at close proximity. Other pieces that lay across the 3 floors range from the aforementioned subjective images to grand scaled objects of art that use the space and exploration of the viewer to create a unique interaction with itself.

Rana work deals with the concept of scale beautifully, ‘Deseperatley Seeking Paradise II’ draws you into to it’s grandeur and prominence in the room. As one circles and begins to read what is on show the large scale skyline is revealed out of nowhere. It then all changes, as one gets closer the scales shifts and the revelation of the matrix of images depicting small houses from the artist’s hometown of Lahore in Pakistan. The exhibition successfully engages with it’s audience on many levels, and the interaction and visual teasing leads to an enjoyable exploration of the space.

The Asia Triennial Manchester 11 launched on Friday. A festival celebrating contemporary visual art from Asia. Rana’s exhibition is just one of the features happening between the 1st of October and 27th of November. Cornerhouse is also showcasing the film programme for the festival and a variety of talks curated for the festival. Events are happening across the city and information about it can be found on their website;

Cornerhouse sits at the heart of contemporary culture in Manchester. It’s dominance of the scene is a testament to the beliefs it works to, and the determination to showcase contemporary pieces of all medias across all platforms. Except what now is to become of Cornerhouse. Plans are already set in motion, with international architects Mecanoo designing a new home for Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre, what does the future hold for this landmark outlet of art. We are all in awe of the current space, and some trepidation has to be felt for the relocation and space that it will transition to. Finally what is to become of the space in which we love to got to, will it’s function change, or is it merely an expansion and faith in the success of contemporary art.

Rashid Rana: Everything is Happening at Once runs at Cornerhouse, Manchester from Sat 01 Oct until Fri 30 Dec 2011 and admission is free.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Shed

Copyright Jack Penford Baker
As the flood gates on Oxford Road are opened mass hysteria erupts across the city. The student's have returned, carted from their idealistic suburban lifestyles into a new world, a different world, their world for 3 - 7 years.

As the fresh blood of architectural students first litter their rooms with posters and flyers, and then proceed to litter the streets with themselves, so to has MMU with a collection of new builds across the All Saints Campus. The Business School is still to open it's doors, and the new Faculty of Arts building is just under a year from completion, one building has opened (although still incomplete), the "Shed".

Copyright Jack Penford Baker
Situated just behind the Mancunian way, the "Shed", an old chemical warehouse, has been transformed into the temporary home of the Manchester School of Architecture. Gone is the penthouse view from Chatham, in it's place a flexible vast single storey structure, a chance for the user to determine the place in which they work.

Although seen as a temporary relocation for a single year, the refurbishment seems more of a long term investment for the university, and why shouldn't it. Chatham doesn't offer great studio space, but it does have other benefits. Why not then utilise both spaces, offering a more attractable faculty.

The refurbishment has been designed by local architects, and fellow tutors, Re-Form architects. After their fantastic refit of the Neighbourhood's office in the Northern Quarter, their understanding of space and ability to utilise and reuse what is existing and subtly transform the space. The building still is to be complete however, and a final opinion can not be given until so, but it's current state is the right direction for the MSA to be taking.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New Year + New Posters + New Writers

Copyright Jack Penford Baker  
Copyright Jack Penford Baker 

Copyright Jack Penford Baker 

Copyright Jack Penford Baker 
Copyright Jack Penford Baker 

Copyright Jack Penford Baker 

Vinoly + Manchester City's Domination

Manchester City Football Club and Vinoly Architects submitted a planning application to Manchester City Council yesterday for a new Training Academy. Positioned on 80 acres of brownfield and industrial land, the scheme looks to put MCFC at the centre of English Football development. 

The site will include 14 full size training pitches and a new 7,000 seated stadium for the youth teams. They have also allocated upto 5.5 acres for community lead schemes, including the possibility of an education facility.
Copyright of MCFC
The vast cash injection and sudden growth happening over at the Etihad stadium is the start of something big in the East of Manchester. Over the decades as Salford has flourished into a secondary centre of Manchester in the west, it appears that now is the time for the east to finally succeed and expand, competing with the city centre and Salford as a destination. 

As Alsops master plan in Ancoats still seeks it's success you wonder whether the expansion at MCFC will help sandwich it in, positioning it within the centre, rather than the edge where it currently sits. There is also the very quiet BDP Master plan for the further context in and around the stadium. Their scheme is still to be seen but the massive overhaul of a leisure lead development can only change the future urban grain of the city.

Can a city work well with 3 key destinations, or will they begin to merge, blurring the lines between the areas, expanding what is deemed the "centre", and becoming the catalyst that turns Manchester into the city of Greater Manchester, a new Mega-City. Built to rival that of London and Paris, even as far as New York. The city of the future.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Pictures: The Depths of Manchester

Last Monday I took part in a tour of Manchester's hidden canals. Organised as part of the Rochdale Canal Festival, we began our descent from within the Great Northern Warehouse to be created by a mass expanse of great structures, unknown by the average mancunian. A true hidden treasure of Manchester.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The view from here by Andrew Broadey Discussion: how will exhibition space evolve in future years?

Thursday night saw the opening of a new exhibition at BlankSpace. Titled "The View From Here", the exhibition looks to challenge the audience's perception of art, and the space in which it is displayed.

Drawing from his recent phd work at the University of Leeds, Andrew Broadey has created 3 pieces of work that explore the public's idea of conventional exhibition space, re-imagining the typical aesthetics of gallery space by exhibiting the space as the art, immediately creating a meta paradox in which the viewer begins to ask one's self what objectifies something as a piece of art. Andrew has perfectly questioned the typical approach to art, by exhibiting the space in a different medium he has shown that our view of what art is can be defined simply by the space in which it is exhibited. If this is the case then you begin to wonder if everything is art, simply waiting to be put in a white box room.

As you enter the gallery space you walk towards the first piece on show, "In Display". A series of prints lined along the wall, depicting standard Perspex leaflet trays. This piece documents the typical gallery approach to exhibition of art. The innate object is a standard element to most galleries, littering walls with printed information about what it is one is seeing. How is it that something as creative as art is always displayed in such a mediocre, mundane, and repetitive space.

As you walk up the stairs you are welcomed by a series of white box rooms accompanied by a series of objects. Titled "Shadow Box", these rooms explore the power exhibition spaces have in controlling the viewing experience, and helping define the art on show. Included in the spaces are a lamp, a Perspex cube and a pictogram. The 3 components depict the capacity that they have at displaying art.

The final piece, titled "Day Room", is a site specific catalogue of the space in which the art sits. By photographing the space periodically throughout the day, Andrew has managed to create a piece of art out of the room in which the art is displayed. The accumulation of the ever changing light within space is displayed in a gridded format, methodically outlining and breaking down the light conditions of space.

Andrew was kind of enough to let me discuss with him about his approach to the art on show and a further exchange about how what makes and defines the space of an art gallery. We talked about the progression and evolution of gallery space. If you think to say 300 years ago, art was part of the home, displayed on the cluttered walls of great estates, hung above the mantle piece to act as a focal point. Then art expanded and a bigger audience was needed, galleries appeared, a space in which to display art. Andrew discussed how it wasn't until the mid 20th century that what we now understand to be a gallery space, the typical "white box", came in to use. We began to talk about what it is that defines a gallery space, is it as simple as putting a collection of art in one place, or does the space have to be as subtle and yielding that no focus is taken from the art.

Street art posed an interesting debate as to wether the wall in which it is painted is the gallery, therefore meaning the world is one giant canvas, waiting to be painted. Land art is a significant art form as the land becomes both the art and the canvas, a strikingly similar premise to that of Andrew's work. There is a mass convention of what exhibition space should be, and perhaps it's form is the essence of what art needs in order to be truly appreciated, but is it the end to the development of the space?

What does the future hold for the space in which art is exhibited, is the white box the final solution, or will it be replaced or kept and a new gallery space invented with the evolution of new mediums for art. How can galleries expand from where they are now, without losing site of their true purpose, the positioning of art for all to see?

I recommend on all accounts a trip down to BlankMedia's BlankSpace, and have a look round out Andrew Broadey's work, it makes one question the space in which one views art. It is on show until the 7th of August.

BlankSpace is at 43 Hulme Street, Manchester, M15 6 AW.

By Jack Penford Baker

All images copyright to Jack Penford Baker

BlankPages Issue 37

The great folks over at BlankMedia have kindly featured Look Up Manchester in this month's issue of BlankPages. Head on over to their site to have a look at both the online magazine and also the brilliant work that the collective do.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Dr Dee @ MIF

Image Copyright To Manchester International Festival 2011

2 years ago Manchester saw itself invaded by the international arts community, providing it's landscape as a blank canvas for outsiders to come and transform, however this time it's changed, this time Manchester has transformed itself for the world to see. With great Mancunians returning to help cement Manchester as a cultural haven, it is also a chance for those helped by Manchester to give someone back.

This year sees the return of Damon Albarn to the festival. In 2007 Albarn's Journey To The West began it's stage life at MIF, headlining the festival. This time around his project steps away from the comfort of an existing outfit, and in to an entirely new field, a contemporary English opera about the great Elizabethan alchemist, titled Dr Dee.

Upon entering the theatre one is greeted with an elongated room, cut out to leave a cross section. A plethora of instruments are scattered across the room, from all types of guitars and percussion instruments to unusual sculpted objects, unknown to the western world of music. Unbeknownst to the audience, the orchestra sits quietly below the stage, isolated to an acoustic-only presence, all that remains is a slither of high gloss stage, fulfilling what appears to be the hierarchy of the play, but then the music begins and all changes. The room begins to rise during a procession of key English historical figures, accumulating in a crisp empty stage, sandwiched between the 2 elements of music.

Image Copyright To Manchester International Festival 2011

Albarn and Norriss' have developed a fantastic contemporary English opera. They manage to achieve a new breed of opera, one accessible to a much wider audience, one that keeps to the traditions, but adds a new layer, Albarn and his band.

As the band hovers above the stage you begin to see and hear the magic that has been created. The juxtaposition between Albarns melancholy sound mixed with the perfect tones of the opera singers works to each's advantage. They compliment each other as the performance between them unravels. The billowing spectrum of the opera singers sits perfectly with the sombre tones of Albarn's voice. And it's with the help of the contemporary songs marriage to the English operatic performances that make it so accessible.

The cast perform to an astounding class, most notably the lead performance from Bertie Carvel, and the eerie countertenor Christopher Robson depiction of Dee's mystic Kelley, and help to make the show a triumph. As much as the hype for the show has been about it's writers, praise must go out to Frantic Assembly for their help with the opera's movement. For it was the emphatic characterisation employed through the movement mixed with the inclusion of projection that helped to progress the classical art in to a modern age.

Image Copyright To Manchester International Festival 2011

Dr Dee has emerged as a forward thinking approach to opera, contextualising our wealth of history in a contemporary outfit, without the loss of appeal to the traditional audience, making it suitable for all. Its position and warm reception has added a great contribution to the discussion of the art of opera's evolution. Should it, as well as most forms of art, evolve as one style/type after another or can one thing evolve alongside it's context, disregard for reinventions of an old style, more a progression a single entity. Can a classical art form such as opera survive forever, or should it evolve and contextualise itself more with the now?

MIF Discussion - Should we treat the arts as a progressive evolution or as a disposal form, chucked out and replaced whenever we see fit?

The Day We Sang

The Day We Sang - Copyright MIF 2011

That Day We Sang - by Victoria Wood

Review by Amy McIntyre and Dick Downing

It’s not that unusual to have a community choir, often with young people in it, singing on the professional stage. It’s more unusual for it to be made up entirely of primary school pupils.

Victoria Wood’s play with songs is about the Manchester School Children’s Choir, and its hugely successful recording of ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ in 1929.

No. Really it’s about how a subsequent loss of sense of joy affected two imagined members of that choir as their lives unfolded, and how they overcame that loss.

Lots of us got to sing as primary aged children. How many of us went on to sing in secondary schools and beyond? And how many more settled into a largely joyless adulthood, with little chance of creative expression and fulfilment?

The Day We Sang - Copyright MIF 2011

VW constructs a beautiful device through which one particular character rediscovers excitement and joy in his life. A boy from an unpromising background loves to sing, to the point that he is put in detention and nearly misses out on an audition for the choir. We have already met the boy as an adult (little Jimmy turned into middle-aged Tubby, a beautiful performance by Vincent Franklin) and see both boy and man anxiously awaiting the audition decision of the choir mistress. The two then share the journey towards the famous Columbia Records recording. At the same time, a shy girl becomes a shy woman, expressing her frustration at being saddled with the name Enid in a classic Wood song along the lines of ‘Let’s do it’ (remember - ‘beat me on the bottom with the Woman’s Weekly’?), brilliantly delivered by Jenna Russell.

The adult boy and the adult girl get it together and rediscover joyfulness. But how many don’t? For how many will secondary school and a humdrum career forever eradicate their playfulness? Mr Gove should come and see this play and realise that secondary education needs to include the creative and expressive opportunities that could help sustain a sense of engagement, teamwork, playfulness - and joy - for more kids. His batty baccalaureate pretty much precludes secondary schools from giving those sorts of experiences across the board, leaving it to the resourceful (and resourced) parents of privileged kids while overlooking ‘a scruffy lot of elementary school brats’.

The Day We Sang - Copyright MIF 2011

It won’t be ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ that does it for today’s kids (probably!). It might be rap, or pop or heavy metal or whatever. ‘That Day We Sang’ reminds us all that we need joyfulness in our lives. Singing is a pretty good start, and education as a whole can do with a damn site more of it – joyfulness, that is. This show, dripping with nostalgia (for Berni Inns and Wimpy Bars even!) really is about now.

Come on Govey, give all the kids a chance for joy; you know you want to!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Festival Square

Festival square, the epicentre of the festival. Albert square has disappeared, replaced by a white eruption rising up to toy with the grand clock tower of the town hall. Bringing 2 event spaces and a vast beer garden fitted out with benches and deck chairs, akin to a quintessential british seaside. Food and drink are available, entertainment flows throughout the day, and in the evening music explodes as renowned DJs descend in to the tent.

The square is free for all to enter, and check the programme for the music in the evening for a great night.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Alphabet City

Tonight Manchester Modernist Society launched Alphabet City, a beautifully crafted booklet that takes you through Manchester's Modernist History, from A to Z.

With a return to the traditional draftsman, each drawing has been hand drawn to intricate detail. From the Barton Aerodrome Tower to the soon to be demolished Elizabeth House in St Peter's Square the collection of drawings displays the vibrant modernist heritage of our great city.

The booklet has been launched along side Manchester Modernist Society's Open house at their HQ in Salford this weekend and on Sunday a 2 hour tour around the A to Z of modern Manchester will start at 1pm from the Mark Addy. The publication has been produced in conjunction with Manchester Municipal Design Corporation and Forever Manchester, with links to Not Part of Festival.

The exhibition is open till the end of the weekend, at the MMS HQ in Salford, and the booklet will be available there, as well as a view of the drawings in the true form.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Return

Today, the 30th of June 2011, sees the return of The Manchester International Festival (MIF). A biannual festival that transforms the vibrant city of Manchester in to a thriving cultural landscape, draped in music, drama, design, and art.

Having started in 2007, the festival looks to highlight the importance of the arts in the city, both in it's past and future. The city stands in awe as familiar spaces metamorphise into rich cultural epicentres for events held over the 18 days. Previous events have included the likes of a J. Bach concert hall by the starchitect that is Zaha Hadid (reported previously here - and in 2007 The Gorillaz staged their first production, Monkey: Journey To The West, all in a resulting in a fantastic collection of art in the city.

Bjork (images copyright to MIF)

This year sees the line up expand even future than previous years. Not only does Damon Albarn return with a new production, the opera Dr Dee, directed by Rufus Norris. The magical Icelandic singer Bjork returns to the UK for the first time in over 3 years with a collection of 6 shows held across the 3 weeks of the festival. Among the high profiled events sits the heart of everything on show, the Festival Square.

Dr Dee (images copyright to MIF)

Situated in Albert Square, sits Roger Stephenson Architect's (formerly Stephenson Bell Architects) Festival Pavilion, the centre of the festival. Open throughout each of the 18 days, it will be the pumping heart. From it one can enjoy daily entertainment, or simply enjoy the music from DJs whilst sitting with a nice cold drink. Everything you need to know about the festival will be found here. Constructed over the past few weeks the temporary structure looks to reflect the town hall's clock tower, subtly toying with it's height.

True Faith (images copyright to MIF)

MIF is a fantastic accumulation of our diverse culture here in Manchester, and Look Up Manchester is going to be right in the centre of it all. Reviews and discussions of the festival events will be posted throughout the duration and daily updates will keep you all up to date with what there is to see. The first event to be attended and discussed will be Damon Albarn's Dr Dee at the Palace Theatre on the 5th of July. Following that will be True Faith, a retrospective look at both established and emerging creatives based in Manchester. A mixture of live music and interviews will help to explore the importance that Manchester has as a city of culture.

Many other events will be covered right here in the blog throughout the festival, keep your eye on twitter (by following the MSSA @themssa and our writers @jackpb and @butcherluke) and enjoy the festival!