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Manchester Charrette: ZCD Architects

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ZCD’s proposals for a new Airport City outside Manchester: Airport-City Crown

ZCD Architects

Dinah Bornat and Cordula Weisser

ZCD Architects is a seven-strong team of architects and assistants. We are working on a range of projects from commercial to arts and residential. We promote an investigative approach to our work, including primary research and prototype builds, through our design studios at the University of East London and BrightonUniversity.


@ ZCD_Architects

Design approach

The artificiality of a business park ‘city’ inserted between the airport and the suburb of  Wythenshawe calls for an unexpected gesture. Our proposal is reinterpreting BrunoTaut’s notion of the City Crown, championing the use of an individual structure to ‘define and affect the planning of an entire city’ – a communal centre, in a way, modelled after the medieval cathedral.

Here, we propose to use archetypal forms: part roofs, terraces, steps, ramps and amphitheatre; part park, slopes and riverbank to create an artificial hilltop as the ‘crown’. With the diverted stream creating a moat in a valley and the hill to be climbed and sledged down, we propose a distinct hierarchy of routes and pathways open for appropriation from Wythenshawe’s residents and businesses alike.


The spaces in between and over the buildings become places of a more civic nature, with the workspaces set into terraced levels allowing space for exploration, thought and conversations.

During the long process of development, the site itself will become established as the heart and as a place for delight with views over, to and from Wythenshawe and Manchester in the distance.

Crit notes

Ruairidh Jackson It feels like it is pretty powerful, and the hill that faces Wythenshawe is strong. Creating some sort of topography on such a bland site is interesting. It would require a lot of confidence to fund this scheme. 

Michel Mossessian  There are similarities with the Ollier Smurthwaite scheme. Where that looks too little like a building, yours looks too much like a building. 

Rory Olcayto It looks as though you are directly engaging Wythenshawe. The first thing that happens here is not a building. It’s disrupting the myth of inclusiveness.

Phil Doyle The landscape scheme is stronger than the building concept.

60 seconds with ZCD

What do you think of when you hear the words ‘business park’?
Cars, glass, large floorplates. Lifeless, uninteresting.

And when you hear the words ‘airport city’?
The weaving of international and local, issues of ownership. Redefining the city. It makes me think of an airport that is more than an airport. Which is rather troubling.

What is the single most appealing aspect of the site and masterplan?
The only thing that can be taken is the bits of nature. It has opportunities with extreme changes that might be an opportunity, rather than flattening everything.  It looks like Wythenshawe is ringed by nondescript green spaces. This is one of them; a buffer between a place to live and a big airport. It can have a secondary use as well. A gap between where you live and the airport.

In one sentence, sum up how you are bringing the site to life.
It’s a mountain, city and valley in the space of a car park – a crown for the airport city.

Which Manchester pop song sums up your approach? 
‘Step On’ by the Happy Mondays.

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