Johm Soane adored ancient ruins. As an apprentice Architect, he was lucky enough to travel to Greece and Italy, where he prepared detailed sketches of the stone relics. These buildings were considered to be the supreme examples of perfect design; a few scattered pillars would evoke visions of majestic temples, courtyards and fora. Later, when designing homes for English aristocrats, Soane and his contemporaries would incorporate arches, pillars and other defining elements from the Classical world.
Meanwhile, we now have some modern ruins to enjoy; a typical manufacturing site will include miles of pipework, huge concrete dams and galvanised chimneys. And when the business suffers (as all must inevitably do) terminal decline, various parts of the site will collapse, exposing the structure of the building and leading us to wonder at the sequence of tasks which would have been daily performed in such a place. Indeed, the pictures of Mason Coatings in Derby (or Sterling Tech in Trafford Park) show an abstract wall of metal shapes, as though Paul Nash had been commissioned to paint the wreckage of a submarine.
Here in Manchester, we have a couple of metaphysical ruins; one is the infamous ‘B-of-the-Bang’ sculpture, an explosion of radiating spines which was intended to represent the excitement and energy of the area around the Man City stadium. The edifice was duly constructed at a cost of several million pounds, and gave a striking new note to the Eastlands horizon. Then – of course – the sculpture began to disintegrate, with huge metal poles breaking free and falling to the ground, which led to it being dismantled (at enormous cost) for safety reasons. All that now remains is a memory…
And the other unreal ruin is a glorious building which never came into being. The centre of the Gay Village includes a large plot of land which was bought by developers, with a view to creating a high-rise block of luxury apartments (‘…executive living space, leisure facilites and business portals…’). In the year 2009, the UK economy abruptly stalled, and only the foundations of the building remain, a forlorn expanse of dull beige concrete.