svlekl is a threesome between photography, minimalism, and lots of concrete.
i’ve always had a soft spot for modernist (particularly brutalist) architecture because of its simplicity, confidence, and sincerity. these big, concrete, mid-century buildings are notoriously divisive and it’s easy to see why - there’s something almost intimidating about their oppressiveness. but, at the same time, i find calm and reassurance in their lack of fussiness and the honesty with which their construction and purpose defines their appearance.
what i was trying to do when i started this project was to try and capture these buildings in a way that would really draw attention to and emphasise their bleakness - but also be somewhat peaceful to look at. i wanted to make a collection of images that, on one hand, felt really heavy and austere but also had some kind of quietness and tranquility to them. in short, it’s about the imposing structures that can be found in the city and the weird tranquility that they bring.
all the images are available for purchase as framed or unframed giclée prints on hahnemühle fine art paper. each size (a2 and a1) is limited to a run of twenty prints.
despite being completed in 1958, more than a decade after the conclusion of the second world war, peter house is one of manchester’s earliest examples of postwar modernism. designed by architects ansell and bailey, it stands twelve storeys high just off st peter’s square and is a striking, almost dazzling presence - with almost 250 large windows occupying a vast facade that bends gently along the curve of oxford street.
at the same time, peter house’s design is sympathetic to its surroundings. the walls are clad in portland stone - a material not typical of modernism but chosen to match that found covering the exterior of the nearby central library. the symmetrical design, again not generally found in international style works, is thought to have been chosen for the same reason.
with its shape tracing the boundaries of the space it occupies, and its materials and structure subtly echoing the neighbouring architecture, the building is certainly one that seems aware of its environment. and it may well be that these characteristics have played a vital role in the longevity and success of peter house which, despite its historical significance as part of modernism’s arrival into manchester, has never been granted any level of listed status.
sitting beside the river irwell on new bailey street in salford, aldine house was designed by architects leach, rhodes, & walker. it’s one of a cluster of interlocking office buildings organised around a central courtyard, which together form a complex known today known as ‘riverside’.
when the site was completed in 1967, the guardian and manchester evening news were two of the original tenants, which is thought to be why each of the four buildings was named after a typeface - aldine house’s neighbours are baskerville house, cloister house and delphian house.
the facades found at riverside are dominated by long rows of protruding window units that repeat impressively across the length of each building, before being met by the ribbed concrete stair cores sitting at each end. made of pre-set concrete and featuring distinctive rounded corners, this modular window styling is reminiscent of that found at highland house (also situated in salford and designed by the same architects).
in 1975, the architects added a fifth building for use as their office. however, despite being part of the same complex, the newcomer was finished with polished black granite (in contrast to the exposed concrete used across the original four structures) and took the slightly disappointing name of ‘west riverside’.
wright robinson hall
completed in 1966 and located on altrincham street in manchester, wright robinson hall was designed by william arthur gibbon of cruikshank & seward as student residence for the university of manchester institute of science and technology (which later became ‘umist’ and, most recently, university of manchester).
the structure stands sixteen floors high, and its scale and form was designed to relate to the well-known renold building which is situated opposite and was also designed by gibbon.
the adjoined ‘barnes wallace building’ is actually part of the same structure, which once housed the university’s students union and hosted the likes of jimi hendrix, def leppard and the who throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties. That space has now largely been converted into computer clusters and workspaces.
wright robinson hall, however, is still used for its original purpose to this day - although it recently featured on student news website the tab’s list of ‘manchester’s shittest halls’, described as “a tower-block monstrosity staring from the distance”.
(aka north tower)
sitting on the edge of salford in greater manchester, highland house was designed by architects leach, rhodes & walker, as offices for the inland revenue.
completed in 1966, the building was one of the first in britain to make use of what was then an innovative construction technique, in which a continuous climbing shutter cast the central core while a tower crane lifted the cladding into place. avoiding the need for any scaffolding, this method allowed the lower levels to be occupied as soon as they were finished, even as floors were still being adding above.
in 1995, the inland revenue moved out of highland house, and it was acquired by the bruntwood group who renamed it ‘north tower’. in the years that followed, the building was renovated and converted into residential properties and hotel rooms. today, the top twelve floors contain 96 apartments, while the ten floors below are used by premier inn (who have had the entire service tower painted purple, their corporate colour).
located on altrincham street in manchester, the renold building was designed by william arthur gibbon from architecture firm cruickshank & seward, for the manchester college of science and technology (which later became ‘umist’ and, most recently, university of manchester). the foundation stone was laid in june 1960 by engineer and vice president of the college, sir charles renold, with work continuing over two years and completing at the end of 1962.
the site was part of a major expansion of the campus, and contains many classrooms, several large lecture theatres, and a handful of galleries. housing such a collection of academic spaces under one roof (rather than spreading them across several locations) was unprecedented in britain, and was designed to allow for larger communal halls within the building while also creating room for more green areas around it. to avoid the potential crush of hundreds of students arriving for and leaving lectures at the same time, multiple entrances were incorporated, as well as a vast staircase which is walled by thin glazing - a design choice that encourages use of the stairs by offering an impressive view of the city in return.
perhaps the renold building’s most recognisable feature, the glass facade on the east side generously welcomes light into the interior, and the striking concertina angles are arranged according to the acoustic requirements of the rooms within.