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High life: Manchester joins London's residential race to reach for the skies.

With demolitions complete and piling under way, work is progressing on site to create the UK's highest living space. The 48-storey building designed by Manchester-based Ian Simpson Architects, will include over 200 skyline apartments and a 285-room five-star Hilton Hotel.

Following the podium-and-tower model, 45 floors of accommodation will sit on a three-storey base, which will in turn define a new piazza and contain lobbies and publicly accessible hotel facilities. Surrounded predominantly by four- and five-storey Victorian buildings, this new landmark tower will force Manchester to address the debate that continues in London concerning the distribution of towers within historic city centres (AR March). However, when describing his plans, Simpson underlines his committed belief that beautifully designed tall buildings can enhance historic contexts, predicting that with relatively narrow residential floor-plates, elegant slender towers will improve people's perceptions when seen in contrast to earlier and more bulky office developments.

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The envelope of the 156m-high glass tower will be a fully sealed, modular, glazed curtain walling system, including silk-screened fritting and an insulated 'shadow box' effect. Designed to emphasize the building's verticality, horizontal joints have been minimized, metal panels and projecting shading fins run across a number of floors, and each elevation is orientation specific, adding richness and individuality to the proposals. South-facing apartments are protected by a glazed buffer zone, a development of No 1 Deansgate (AR February), which allows occupants to inhabit protected external spaces with spectacular views across the city and the surrounding countryside. At level 23, the tower cantilevers, accommodating a publicly accessible sky-bar that separates private residences from hotel rooms. This dramatic formal move is then balanced by the rooftop crystalline blade, which, as an extrusion of the louvred facade, clearly demonstrates Simpson's keen desire to articulate Manchester's skyline, reminiscent perhaps of his wilful, but nevertheless distinctive, copper spike that crowns his building at Urbis (AR April 2000).

After the success of the city's Commonwealth Games in 2002, Manchester's support for this landmark project is a true reflection of the city's ambitions to maintain its role as regional capital of the north-west, and critically as a commercial development has become a popular success story with the emerging community of city-centre dwellers. Remarkably, 200 of the 219 one- and two-bedroom apartments have already been sold, with only 12 of the penthouses still available. The tower is due for completion in autumn 2006.

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Author:Gregory, Rob
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 1, 2004
Words:400
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