Manchester Oblique

/ Friday, August 19, 2011 /
Recently, I came across several articles about London's underground and how urban spelunkers are exploring and mapping a labyrinth of abandoned tube tunnels, decommissioned pneumatic rail transit systems, secret government bunkers, lost catacombs and ostentatious swimming pools constructed by the city's super-rich. It was a fascinating reminder that London (along with a lot of Europe) has been building and rebuilding on top of itself for more than ten centuries. The city's ground is no longer a solid piece of soil or bedrock, but a porous Swiss cheese of concrete, steel and stone that is being drilled into and built over.

America is still new and has yet to reach these mature stages of rebuilding and structural transition. If you open Google Maps and set a course for the west coast, you can see cities like Seattle and Las Vegas are beautifully designed grids, fortified with modern urban planning. They almost look like circuits boards, with components that can be easily swapped in and out. Need a new museum? Just bulldoze the old Hyatt building flat, send away the rubble and build your new museum from scratch. Scroll east across the nation and the cities begin to garble with their squiggly lines and abstract borders. "The roads! They curve," a friend of mine once exclaimed returning to New Hampshire after living several years out west. Point the cursor towards New England and the map starts to look more akin to a map of Europe. New England is getting older, and over the last 50 years, its cities have stopped expanding outward and have started to re-utilize their own space. Building up, not out.

Manchester is one of these aforementioned cities, traversing a delicate stage of re-imagining the space that it claims. From rooting out the old mills to make way for businesses and homes, to paving over out-of-service rail road lines in lieu of bicycle trails, Manchester is on the cusp of a type structural change that most of America won't see for a long time. Manchester Oblique is an attempt to document and explore some of these transitions.

An oblique drawing is a two dimensional projection of a three dimensional object. I felt the term was appropriate as I intend to add extra dimensions and depth to the changing spaces we walk or drive by everyday, but never question. Two parts BLDG BLOG (architectural appreciation, conjecture and urban speculation) and one part My Good Good Manchester (hyper localized awareness and discourse), I hope to touch upon everything from Manchester's reuse of the mills to the effects of the city's watershed on local ponds.

I'll try to keep it as entertaining as possible.


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