manchester modernist society

Manchester Modernist Society unilaterally designate Conservation Area Status to the former UMIST Campus

In architecture, news on June 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm

On the 24th of June 2012 we, the Manchester Modernist Society unilaterally designate Conservation Area Status to the former UMIST Campus.

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and here’s the Degree, awarded on Campus Day to our newly graduated Bachelors, Masters and Doctors of Modernism


Degree certificate designed by Jonathan Hitchen


© the modernist society 2012


The CAMPUS buildings

In architecture, uncategorized on June 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Designed for 160 students with study beds and common room with kitchen on each floor, this 15 floor hall of residence was a prototype for student living. The top floor housed a warden’s residence, roof terrace and a communal room for parties…how modern!


Strikingly beautiful with its distinctive concertina wall and the 1968 Victor Pasmore mural Metamorphosis running the length of the lower level of the grand duplex entrance, a 6 storey tower on 2 storey base, cleverly incorporating mixed lecture theatres including one for 500, 2 for 300, 6 for 140, and 12 smaller ones. The potential crush of so many students leaving and entering for hourly lectures ameliorated by multi entrances, vast staircase and double height hallway.

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Podium with 15 floor tower of residence behind, unusual in that the two parts of the building have different names and different uses, despite the fact that the building is a single structure, purpose built by a single architect – the union is on free standing columns to give a fluted effect like the Renold building.

Barnes Wallis section housed the main campus refectory (closed June 2009), and until 2004 was also home to UMIST Students’ Association.

The naming of internal parts of the building was for many years a good indicator of the current political balance of the UMIST Student Union – the Large Assembly Hall was at times called the Lenin Assembly Hall. Conversely, the Small Assembly Hall was at other times named the Sharansky Assembly Hall, after Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky.

The Renold Building, and the Barnes Wallis Building, originally faced each other across a bowling green, which later became a landscaped garden. For this reason a bar in the Renold Building was originally named the Bowling Green Tavern.

  1. STAFF HOUSE, THOMAS WORTHINGTON, 1960, EXTENDED 1968 slotted in behind former retained mill buildings

Not part of the Gibbon masterplan but constructed earlier by Hubert Worthington of the Manchester firm Thomas Worthington. Suitably sober for UMIST’s chief bigwigs and boffinhood.


Another bespoke and ingenious design, with its innovative use of brick and glass. The open plan glass half for students to erect their own large scale experimental rigs. Exposed cooling pipes on the roof adds to its credentials as a precursor to later international ‘Pop’ architecture, such as Paris’ Pompidou centre – how cool!


A bit of an MMS obsession – 1968 buffer wonder-wall, sculpture and engineering construction! Prefabricated textured panels slotted into concrete columns and an experimental collaboration between the architect Fairhurst and artist Holloway who later worked together on stained glass at Manchester Cathedral.


The highest building on Campus, a 15 storey tower, its twin circulation towers extending above the main roof levels, creating an even taller impression, is a powerful landmark sweeping along the Mancunian Way. It is flanked by a windowless lecture block also in UMIST’S trademark white reinforced concrete. A Brutalist delight.

The building was used largely for staff offices, with some teaching rooms. The 10th to 14th floors (called floors M-Q) accommodated the Department of Mathematics.


Low reinforced concrete box for electrical engineering/ High Voltage Laboratories, acoustically designed to shut out traffic from the motorway yet low enough to allow sunlight to the lawns beyond. Stark yet elegant.


Classical, reserved modernism in brick and copper cladding, typical of the firm’s stoical style, mirrored in the Victoria University’s own post-war Brunswick St science campus. The low 3 storey building attached to the east is the Hydraulics Lab.


This high slab and 4 storey block ingeniously used the existing topography, and housed its library on the bridge running across Sackville St – the block to the east for undergrads, west for graduates. The abstract patterning adorning the tower walls was designed by Anthony Holloway, whilst in the coffered arcaded entrance nestles the gloriously textured mosaic, the Alchemist’s Elements, by Hans Tisdall, 1967


For the mechanical engineering department and comprising huge basement labs, upper drawing offices and lecture rooms. To the north was the Paper Science Lab on the front of the road.

  1. The multi-storey car park with the legendary UMIST watering hole the Swinging Sporran, gone but not forgotten –  now the Retro Bar.


The Godlee Observatory, home to the Manchester Astrological Society, sits in the dome of the original Municipal School of Technology

Vimto Monument, 1992

Technology Arch, 1989

Archimedes, 1990

Generation of Possibilities, 1999

The Bowling Green – the former Campus bowling green between the Renold and Barnes Wallis Buildings is now a landscaped garden

Mural: Metamorphosis,1968

Mechanics Institute Sundial, Renold Building, 1974, replica of the presented to UMIST by Lord Bowden the principal to mark the 150th anniversary of the Institute.

Combustion, 1994, (adjacent Renold Building) by Marshall Hall

The insulator family, 1987

The Alchemist’s Elements, 1967

Hollaway Sculptural Wall, 1968

Concrete Society Award, 1968


In background, science, society on June 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm
you cant move around campus or much of the city without constantly bumping into these LEGENDARY FIGURES …here’s their best bits!! (thanks wiki & MOSI websites….!)


John Dalton (6 September 1766 – 27 July 1844) was one of the founding fathers of the Manchester Mechanics Institute, a chemist, meteorologist and physicist. Hailing from Cumberland in the Lakes, Dalton presented his famous atomic theory to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society just over 200 years ago, and later became its president, presenting over 100 papers to its esteemed members.

His humble beginnings as son of a weaver and his informal education, plus his outsider status as a Quaker, was pivotal to both his own future prospects and that of the institute. Religious non-conformists or ‘dissenters’ as they were known at the time were barred from attending or teaching at English universities. The formation of a non sectarian college, open to all, was to prove critical in the city – both UMIST and the Owens College were founded in the face of such restrictions.

A polymath – or perhaps just a by-product of the region’s famously gloomy weather – Dalton kept a meteorological diary for 57 years, from childhood to his death, during which time he entered more than 200,000 observations!

A naturally quiet character, he preferred a simple lifestyle and routine with only a few close friends, never even maintaining his own household,  lodging instead with the Rev. W. Johns and his family in George Street where his daily round of laboratory work and tuition was broken only by annual excursions to the Lake District and occasional visits to London. Yet at his death approximately 40,000 people filed by his coffin as it was laid in state in the Manchester Town Hall. He was buried in Ardwick cemetery which is now a playing field – perhaps appropriately for a man embarrassed by attention.

And what he would think of the proliferation of buildings, statutes and streets named in his honour today is anyone’s guess…..

James Prescott Joule (24 December 1818 – 11 October 1889) was the son of a leading Salford brewer.

At 16 he began studying under John Dalton at the Lit & Phil Society. Fascinated by electricity, it wasn’t long before he began to conduct electrical and magnetic experiments at a laboratory built in the cellar of his father’s home. He and his brother apparently constantly gave electric shocks to each other and to the family’s servants in their home adjoining the Joule Brewery in New Bailey Street.

He is perhaps most well known as the first person to prove that heat is a form of energy – that’s why the international unit of energy, the joule, is named after him – which led to the theory of conservation of energy which led to the development of the first law of thermodynamics. But as a pupil of Dalton it’s also no surprise that he held a firm belief in the atomic theory, despite many scientists of his time remaining sceptical.

He became President of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1860, and received a civil list pension of 200 pounds per annum in 1878 for services to science.

Joule died at home in Sale and is buried in Brooklands cemetery. The gravestone is inscribed with the number “772.55”, his climacteric 1878 measurement of the mechanical equivalent of heat and a quotation from the Gospel of John “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (9:4)

His statue now stands in Manchester Town Hall opposite that of Dalton, his mentor and inspiration.

George E. Davis (July 1850-1906)- As befits its roots in the early chemical industry of the region, ‘the Tech’ pioneered Chemical Engineering as an academic subject in Britain with Davies’  key lecture series in1888. Here’s the story….

Davis was the eldest son of George Davis, a bookseller, and though apprenticed at 14 to a local bookbinder, he swiftly abandoned his trade to pursue his burgeoning interest in chemistry. Davis studied at the Slough Mechanics Institute while working at the local gas works, then spent a year studying at the Royal School of Mines in London (now part of Imperial College, London) before leaving to work in Manchester, the absolute epicentre of the chemical industry in the UK.

Once in Manchester he held a variety of chemist jobs and became an inspector for the Alkali Act of 1863, a very early piece of environmental legislation requiring soda manufacturers to reduce the amount of gaseous hydrochloric acid released to the atmosphere from their factories. Then in 1872 he became manager at the Lichfield Chemical Company in Staffordshire and it was here that his capacity for innovation flourished.

Davis identified broad features in common to all chemical factories, wrote the influential A Handbook of Chemical Engineering and published that pivotal lecture series at Manchester Technical School – a dozen lectures that defined and positioned Chemical Engineering as an academic as well as an industrial discipline.

Initially criticized for being common place know-how since it was designed around operating practices used by British chemical industries, his ideas helped initiate new thinking in the Chemical Industry, as well as spark Chemical Engineering degree programmes, at several universities in the USA. The world followed suit and the rest is history….

Today in the entrance to Jackson’s Mill, the building that houses the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences, there is a display and memorial to Davis. The George E. Davis Medal of the Institution of Chemical Engineers is named in his honour.

Sir John Douglas Cockcroft (May 27th, 1897 – September 18, 1967) is a name and portrait that crops up all over the place on campus – mainly it seems as an illustrious alumnus ‘done good’ and a famous physicist on the international stage, awarded the Nobel prize in 1951for his pioneering work with Rutherford and Walton on the transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles.

Basically, Cockcroft spilt the atom…!

A Todmorden boy, Cockcroft came from a family of cotton manufacturers and studied mathematics at Manchester University under Horace Lamb from 1914–1915. After serving in the First World War in the Royal Field Artillery he returned to Manchester to study electrical engineering at the College of Technology, followed by an apprenticeship with Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company. He went on to study mathematics at St. John’s College, Cambridge, and began research there under Ernest Rutherford. In 1929 he was elected a Fellow of St. John’s College.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he took up the post of Assistant Director of Scientific Research in the Ministry of Supply, working on radar. In 1944, he took charge of the Canadian Atomic Energy project and became Director of the Montreal Laboratory and Chalk River Laboratories. In 1946, he returned to Britain to set up the Atomic Energy Research Establishment AERE) at Harwell, charged with developing Britain’s atomic power programme.

Famously, his insistence that the Windscale nuclear reactor coolers be reinforced with high performance filters, at huge expense, became known as Cockcroft’s Follies – but in 1957 when the core of one of the two reactors caught fire, his filters prevented the disaster from becoming a catastrophe…