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It’s a common challenge associated with pattern making – everybody sees something slightly different in the sweep of curves and soft organic forms based on their own individual experience and imagination, and once you have a particular visual reference fixed in your mind’s eye it’s difficult to shift.

In the case of Two St Peter’s Square, what had first begun as a simple geometric pattern conceived from the local symbology of the Lancashire Rose had now morphed into a face with a large nose and two round ears. This was eventually re-designed and replaced with the tracery found on the completed building today.

But what do these patterns really mean? Decorative building elements are rarely just a visual flourish and the design of these panels was rooted in the context of the site, and symbols of Manchester and the North West, and also informed by function.

The south west façade frames the newly defined St Peter’s Square when viewed alongside its counterpart of stone filigree found on the opposing Town Hall Extension stair. Three individual patterns are used to articulate this elevation and are derived from symbols of Manchester’s heritage, interpreted from air bricks carved into the Town Hall itself. Depicting local icons such as the cotton bud and the Lancashire Rose, the tracery forms a natural shading device to the full height glazing located behind. On Princess Street the design draws on the contextual references of the textile warehouses it overlooks, using a single abstract interpretation of the cotton plant with sepal, bud and stem. This motif is repeated and rotated over the surface of the elevation, offering a rich articulated backdrop to the adjacent listed buildings.

In developing these concepts with input from local artists, we challenged our preconceived ideas and questioned the original pattern-making generated by these conceptual images. Turning small scale sketches into large, bespoke latticework structures tested the capabilities of construction methods, culminating in storey-high feats of structural engineering. Formed from rubber moulds, and hand-finished to generate sharp profiles and a consistently smooth surface, the patterns were further refined to their simplest and most elegant form. The final results can now be viewed from the civic splendor of the newly enhanced St Peters Square – and no need for anyone to beware of the bear.