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FIRM MAY DEMOLISH OWN OFFICE

AGENDA

Salford-based practice Leach Rhodes Walker (LRW) is steeling itself for uproar over plans to overhaul - or even demolish - its iconic, selfdesigned office.

The firm's home - the Miesian, black-marble Aldine House pavilion overlooking the River Irwell - is widely regarded as one of Greater Manchester's tidiest pieces of 1960s Modernism.

Aldine House, and its surrounding five-storey office blocks clad in striking white precast sculptural concrete panels, were all drawn up by LRW back in 1967.

But developer Bruntwood is mulling over proposals to build a mixed-use residential and commercial scheme, possibly including a 'slim' 40storey tower, on the soughtafter riverside plot.

If the move goes ahead, LRW could be forced to mastermind the demolition of perhaps its finest building.

What's more, with the recent loss of some of the city's better 1960s buildings such as the Maths Tower at Manchester University, the practice is also likely to become embroiled in a heated battle over its plans with lovers of Modern architecture.

'It is very sad to hear that LRW's own office and arguably the practice's best building is to be destroyed, ' says Eddy Rhead, secretary to the North West group of the Twentieth Century Society.

Rhead adds: 'The whole Aldine House development is very well handled and has a great amount of air. . .

Although I haven't seen the proposals, any building that requires the demolition of the LRW office or affects its setting will undoubtedly spoil one of Manchester's better 1960s office buildings.'

The existing complex is, in fact, the only completed part of a much larger but unrealised scheme for a series of blocks reaching up to 16 storeys high.

Tom Jefferies, a senior lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture, fears that the city's hunger for the new could spell the end for this 'glamorous, space-age' jewel.

'Buildings are coming out of the ground rapaciously in true Manchester style, swamping all before it, including the good stuff, ' says Jefferies.

'At the moment there is a stylistic conformity to a lot of things going up in the city centre, removing the more distinct work of the 1960s and reinforcing blandness.'

He adds: 'There is a growing realisation that good things are being destroyed in the name of progress, and I would be very, very disgruntled if Aldine House went.

'I'm sure what is going up will be fine, but I guarantee it won't be as weird.'

Meanwhile, LRW is insisting that no fixed plans have been made and a number of options are still under consideration. But a source within the firm did admit that 'sometimes you have to lose little gems to build better gems'.

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