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Many deserve plaudits for Manchester stadium

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With reference to the article on the Manchester stadium (AJ 16.5.02), I think it more appropriate to give credit where credit is due. As project manager in the complex's early years, I am well placed to do this.

The genesis of the stadium was 'The Eastlands Challenge', a competition of unprecedented scale and complexity organised in 1992 by Manchester City Council. This required consortia to 'design, build, own, finance and operate a mix of commercial and sport facilities' on the site.

Intrinsic to this was a need to produce a strategy by which the development would act as a catalyst for East Manchester's regeneration, to produce an integrated transport strategy, and to propose decontamination.

The site was as 'brownfield' as one could wish. It included ancient coal mining shafts of uncertain location and contained every sort of pollution. It was crossed by the Ashton Canal, and by the River Medlock in conduit, and it was to be further crossed by an extension to the Manchester Metro.

I was recruited by AMEC Regeneration, headed by David Taylor, later head of English Partnerships, in order to put together an AMEC bid.

As an architect it was exciting and informative work to act as the client's representative and project design director by coordinating the activities and direction of the very many specialist disciplines required.

We put together a 'dream team'. We were impressed with the vitality and imagination of James Burland, then with Arup Associates; and the hand-inglove way he worked with the talented Terry Raggett, Arup's assigned project structural engineer. We wanted North American stadium experience and construction know-how, so achieved something of a shotgun marriage between Arup and HOK Sport.

Professor Hillier of London University had recently worked convincingly with Sir Norman Foster on 'Urban Syntax' disciplines on the King's Cross project. Both agreed to join us on masterplanning.

The site, with its many severance lines, needed integration with its surrounding population if the stadium was to be a catalyst for regeneration as intended. Joe Berridge of Toronto, with a local track record in Hulme, worked on the larger regeneration strategies. In all, 29 companies and more than 100 individuals contributed massively; too many to list and credit here.

This was probably, in retrospect, the very first model for PFI projects. Even given generous fee deals by the design team for the competition stage, the cost of all this to AMEC was formidable.

Interestingly, of all the original team members, only Arup's seem to have survived to the end.

James Burland had worked with Phillip Cox on the Sydney football ground; and the sweeping curved roofs were thence derived, being developed further on Burland's Johannesburg Stadium, on which it appears Patel assisted. HOK Sport's stadium team was based in Kansas City; and the design team went there for a week-long brainstorm from which, it's fair to say, all the ingredients of the present stadium design and philosophy were derived. The spiral entry towers, for instance, came from HOK's stadia in Kansas City.

The AMEC team duly won the competition; months running into years were spent developing proposals to suit changing requirements, and in supporting Manchester City Council in its Olympic, National Stadium and Commonwealth Games bids. EDAW did an excellent job on masterplanning after Foster's went with opponents Wembley on the National Stadium bid. Rod Sheard of the Lobb Partnership (as was) contributed when a closing roof became a possibility.

Manchester City Council, as creators of the project, cannot be praised enough for its astonishing skill, determination and perseverance on this and other major projects radically changing the face of their great city.

It would be disappointing if only those present at the end got the credit for the whole huge exercise. The stadium is a fine piece of architecture combining beauty with functionality, as indeed James Burland's very first sketches promised.

Patrick Thomas, Monmouth

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