when the posters started to go up a lot of people thought that they must be a joke, probably for some insurance company or something like that. number one, first street. get out of town. however, this was no joke. manchester city council have indeed emptied out the town hall, and moved the office staff to this new building, which holds the natty address of number 1, first street, manchester. (nb – it is let down by it’s postcode, which should surely be m1 1m).
‘first street’ has been invented down at the bottom of whitworth street west, and this has been a building project that was kept in the dark for quite a while. as much as i was approaching this building with a certain amount of pre-prepared apathy, i quite liked it. the interior is nice and spacious, though a little confusing with a multitude of waiting areas around the building. i really like the idea of city library having a presence in the building, with this satellite to the main library also serving as a book drop off/pick up point if you need it.
the landscaped garden around the back of the block like building is really quite pleasant, and not what you would expect from a behemoth-like council headquarters. muted purples and greens worked well together, and i can imagine this being a great place for folks to wind down in the summer months. in a city which is quite bereft of green space, first street has been very thoughtfully put together, with an expanse of lawn filling as much room as the car park does on the other side. i think that the council appear to have joined most of the dots together properly here.
yet things aren’t quite finished here. despite being installed months ago, the gymnast sculptures are still wrapped in bubble wrap. i can only guess the these pieces are designed to give your walk to sort out your council tax some energy, but when covered in their protective layers you wonder if they are telling you more about the shell shock you are about to receive. not that anyone other than me gave them a second glance whilst i was visiting.
dancing above your head, i can’t really see why these gymnast are here. if they were re-purposed from 2002, and thus representing a terrific era in this city’s regeneration, then i’d get it. but these are new new new. where are the bees? where are the tributes the hallé? no pankhursts. no gladstone. there isn’t even one of the cows. it just feels a lot like a missed opportunity to me. i think someone else may have similar feelings…