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Architect MBLC has designed a housing scheme in Salford that follows the footprint of its predecessor, the TGWU offices, scene of many a dispute.

11 Mar 2005

by Penny Lewis

The old Transport and General Workers Union offices on Salford’s Royal Crescent was a significant building, not so much for its architectural qualities, but because it had been at the heart of so many important industrial disputes. Schemes to convert Transport House to residential use did not stack up commercially, so MBLC was asked to design a new building that followed the traditional footprint of the old headquarters and to find some way of recording the history of the workers who had organised themselves from the building throughout the post-war period.

The planners were looking for a ‘gateway’ building – an expression that Ian Beaumont, an MBLC director, feels is over-used. The architects have produced a distinct building without resorting to a corner tower or wacky roof form. At ground level a strong curved wall screens the undercroft parking and provides a backdrop for an artwork by Liam Curtin, who worked with local residents, trade unionists and academics to produce a work inspired by Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy and funded by CITE, Arts Council England and the housing association.

It is a tough, robust building, with few soft edges; the skills of the architect have been expended on getting the best possible flat-types on to the site. Contractor Lovells operated under a design and build contract, with the architect maintaining a reasonable level of control over most of the detailing. The L-shaped block is made up of two elements joined by a glazed link, and contains 31 two-bedroom apartments with duplexes on the top floor. The block provides key worker housing for Irwell Valley Housing Association that is affordable, but not mean. Eighteen of the apartments form part of a shared ownership scheme, and range in price from £108,000 to £138,000. To the rear, a galvanised steel circulation system provides

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