Why we need to add colour to our grey cities
Manchester’s city centre is being transformed with huge investment in new residential development. As highlighted by Savills, this is dramatically changing Manchester’s skyline with a raft of tall buildings, including a variety of luxury flats.
With this comes impressive new architecture but as our city expands up, we mustn’t neglect our existing buildings and spaces, especially in the commercial sector.
Walk around the city centre and one thing that’s still lacking is colour. The interiors of office buildings may have been given a facelift in recent years but outside, they’re decidedly grey. This has resulted in uninspiring and underused spaces.
When we acquired Piccadilly Place, the piazza fit into this category. The concrete square located right next to the train station and the office accommodation, was uninviting and did little to impress the vast numbers of commuters and visitors that passed by it every day.
Following a significant investment, we’ve transformed this space. Not just with landscaping as you might expect, but a unique display of public art that we want everyone who works and visits Manchester to enjoy.
The area is now filled with five oversized lamps reflecting various eras and centuries of innovation in Manchester, each with a distinctive design style. One of the most eye catching is a modern lamp, projecting a graphic pattern onto the surrounding wall, which represents the future and next chapter of our city. The space will also include new paving, including bold floor graphics and colourful patterns within the tunnel entrance.
The benefits of this investment are vast. It has already helped to attract new retail tenants to the piazza, filling all units and long-term, we are confident that it will continue to draw people into the space. We also hope that it will become a place where people from across the city to choose to meet and visit.
Not every space lends itself to being transformed in this way, but there are often other opportunities to brighten up bricks and mortar. In Leeds for example, we achieved this by turning a blank exterior office wall into another piece of art. A striking image of an elephant portraying Leeds cultural heritage has been painted on the building by graffiti artist Russell Meeham, also known as ‘Qubek’.
Also, adding colour doesn’t have to be in a literal sense. As people continue to demand more motivational working environments, there is potential to rejuvenate commercial spaces via new amenities and facilities especially in business parks.
At Trident Business Park, this approach was instrumental in us letting all space and subsequently selling the asset and achieving 100% profit.
The investment that continues in Manchester is great for our city and it’s exciting to see the skyline change. As part of that, we also need to make sure that our existing developments and spaces still do the city proud. A bold approach to design – and a splash of colour – could make all the difference.
Alex Russell is Alliance’s managing director