As the world’s first industrialized city, Manchester, England has always been a working-class city famous – not to mention infamous – for its bleak urban landscape and stark contrast of wealth against abject poverty. Historian Simon Schama declared that "Manchester was the very best and the very worst taken to terrifying extremes, a new kind of city in the world; the chimneys of industrial suburbs greeting you with columns of smoke." Ouch!
But as history has proved over and over again, when you stuff millions of disparate people into bleak surroundings and separate them into an economic caste system, revolutionary thoughts and ideas will soon follow. And so it goes with 21st-century Manchester, where old 19th-century factories are converted into trendy loft spaces and nightclubs, and urban planners replace dilapidated public housing tracks with innovative ideas for urban planning.
A fine example of a very new vision for a very old city is the “Chips” development by Alsop Architects, part of the master plan for the New Islington region within the Manchester Millennium Community. The “Chips” moniker comes from the building’s design resembling three fat chips (French fries) piled on top of one another. Comprised of three long sections, staggered and stacked one on top of the other, the unique design creates high-density living spaces that mix apartments, studios, restaurants and workshops into a dynamic and sustainable addition to the urban landscape.
Arranged on eight floors, the exterior features a myriad of external balconies and a façade featuring letters with text reflecting the industrial heritage of the region. The project combines innovative design and the latest concepts of sustainability and integration into the existing urban landscape, helping to transform this 19th-century city into a shining beacon of 21st century urban development.
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