19 Nov 2004
by Helen France
Castlefield in Manchester city centre is arguably one of the most historically important areas in the world. Innovations have proliferated here and many artefacts have been constructed. In 79AD the Romans built their fort on elevated ground, and canals were dug to allow natural watercourses to be diverted to mountain water levels. By the time the world’s very first railway station was introduced in Castlefield in 1830, to allow the first rail transportation of coal, canal basins were so numerous that the only practical means of utilising railway transport was to build viaducts.
Castlefield Viaduct is my favourite building. The structure is a constant, and dominating, feature on the Manchester skyline and, constructed of iron lattice beams, the viaduct is of fundamental importance to the infrastructure of the area. It is part of the city’s fascinating network of transport infrastructure, which includes canals, waterways, tram, rail and road.
In recent years Castlefield has undergone a dramatic revival, with many historical buildings being brought back into productive use and new developments providing flats, offices, galleries and studios. The Castlefield Viaduct provides a strong contrast to these new structures, reflecting the area’s heritage and its eminence as the birthplace of the industrial revolution.
Castlefield was also named Britain’s first Urban Heritage Park, and is home to the spectacular Castlefield Outdoor Arena, which plays host to a number of concerts and is a great opportunity to showcase the area. At sunset, the viaduct casts quite remarkable geometric shadows across the arena and over Castlefield, which is a beautiful sight and adds to the cultural feel of the area.
The viaduct in Castlefield is located at the centre of one of Manchester’s most successful regeneration areas in recent decades. The city’s ageing infrastructure of the 1800s has been revived and in its place is one of Europe’s leading city break destinations, with some of the best shopping and most vibrant nightlife in the world.
Like Castlefield, Manchester is also a place of enormous contrasts and heritage. Here you will find the Cotton Exchange, the Royal Exchange Theatre, the magnificent Midland Hotel and the cathedral, amongst many historic buildings. But standing next to these great landmarks you will also find award-winning new architecture, including the Bridgewater Hall, the five-star Lowry Hotel and the striking Urbis building.
Regeneration like this is vital for the economic development of England’s Northwest, and continues to be a high priority for the NWDA. Successful regeneration promotes investment and competitiveness throughout the region and contributes to the sustainable development of the UK as a whole.
Public art and good design play key roles in regeneration, encouraging investment and strengthening competitive position. The Castlefield Viaduct is a reminder of the ambitions of our ancestors and the importance of bold architecture. As the backbone of the city it has been a continual part of Manchester’s regeneration, as well as its history, and that is why it remains my favourite building.
NWDA Executive Director
of Development and Partnerships.
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