Manchester Architecture Exhibition to Explore Struggle Between Past and Present

Architecture and design is so important to the way in which we live as human beings. There is always a balancing act between the past, the present, and the potential of the future. In city landscapes especially there is a real desire to meet the needs of the modern population, whilst retaining the value and importance of the history of the city and the disused spaces that are being repurposed for commercial and residential spaces. This struggle between the past and the present and how to deliver effective architecture to meet those needs is to be explored in a brand new exhibition in Manchester.

The exhibition, called ‘UnDoing’ is to take place until the 26th May at Castlefield Gallery, and has been co-curated by two academics from the Manchester School of Architecture. It will look at the value of the past and how this impacts the renovation of spaces and buildings in Manchester specifically. Manchester is a city that has a rich history as the birthplace of the industrial revolution and is one the best examples in the UK of gentrification and the use of traditional industrial settings for apartments and commercial development projects.

The exhibition will explore how these traditional buildings and artefacts have been re-purposed, reinterpreted and are remembered within modern architecture and design in the city. Sally Stone and Laura Sanderson, who researched the conflicted relationship in architecture between the past and the present, first explored the exhibition as a possibility. The research was put together at Manchester School of Architecture. The exhibition will include a wide range of mixed media, including photography, models, sculpture and a feature film.

It is important to understand what it means to redevelop within an urban environment. When an architect redevelops an existing building it is looking at a space that has a vast and rich history. People have lived and worked in these buildings for many decades (or centuries in some cases in the UK), and there are many memories to be found within the walls of each building. Should there be a responsibility of an architect to make a nod to the past when designing a redevelopment of a building for future use and a modern space? Can the needs of a modern population be met within the confines of the past of a building in an urban and industrial landscape?

In Manchester specifically it isn’t just the historical buildings and warehouses from a century or more ago that have been redefined and repurposed for a modern audience. There is also the change of pace in areas of more modern cultural importance, such as the famous Hacienda club of the 1980s that was the birthplace and congregation space of many of the Manchester music scene of that time. The building has since been demolished and the site re-used to build apartments – a project that has been seen across many cities countrywide where cultural hotspots have been repurposed for modern apartments aimed at young professionals and tourists. Architecture and design is fluid and continues to move forward at a staggering pace, but there is always the conflict between the past and the present and how it affects an urban landscape.