In June 1996 the IRA exploded a 3,300lb bomb, the largest ever detonated in the UK in peacetime, just a few yards up the street you see on the left of the photo. The town centre was severely damaged - initial estimates put the cost at £700 million and 670 businesses had to relocate. Out of the horror of the bomb the city seized the chance to transform the town centre. Within days, a task force had been set up to plan the rebuilding and from this an international competition was launched to model a new open space, Exchange Square. The winning design was by Martha Schwarz of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Some people have criticised the design as being gimmicky, but I like it and it has certainly proved popular with the locals - witness the crowds on a sunny afternoon. There are benches shaped like railway wagons, the famous 'tilting windmills' (by John Hyatt of MIRIAD) and the water feature you see in the foreground which represents an ancient waterway which once flowed here, Hanging Ditch. The water was switched off when I took this, as it was quite early in the morning - I wanted to get the sun on the store front but as it's north facing this involves an early start.
Martha Schwarz Inc.|
MIRIAD - Manchester Institute for Research & Innovation in Art & Design