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Manchester Charrette: Nord

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NORD’s proposals for a new Airport City outside Manchester: Pattern City: Original Modern


Mark Bell and Brian McGinlay

NORD takes great inspiration from the UK’s legacy of ‘making things’, and is often inspired by social and cultural issues within the contemporary city. This, along with a passion for materials, technological innovation, detail, craftsmanship, texture and pattern, underpins NORD’s work.

@ BrianMcGinlay

Design approach

NORD’s approach focused on subtle manipulation of the chosen 1.3ha plot, rather than completely rethinking the current masterplan. We initially thought about how the site could develop over time, traditional and contemporary architectures, identity and the programme of spaces. Ideas on form and materiality developed with a close reference to Manchester.

The natural character of the woodland site, with its brook and pond, gave us an instinctive opportunity to create a slower-paced, more intimate environment, while offering a sense of destination(or escape) within the airport city. This composed a focused and architecturally rich masterplan ‘heart’. Fascinated by William Wyld’s 1852 painting Manchester from Kersal Moor, distilling a picture of ‘Cottonopolis’ – as the city was nicknamed in the early 19th century owing to its textile factories – NORD conceptually reinterpreted a scene of sculptural and crafted industrial forms in an ornamental woodland landscape.


Manchester, a product of the Industrial Revolution, demonstrates a rich variety of architectural styles, and is known as the first modern, industrial city. Taking inspiration from its manufacturing heritage and, conceptually, the works of Swiss-German artist Paul Klee and his painting Highways and Byways, NORD considered notions of weaving as an approach to a new townscape and the civic architectural treatment of surface, form and facade.

While thinking of developing a common language, a strategy of ‘warp and weft’ of materials also suggested a sensitivity to surfaces while considering detail, craft, pattern, colour and human scale as well as a potential for brand wayfinding.

Crit notes

Phil Doyle This takes and improves the masterplan. I like how the blocks can improve and be manipulated; it kind of shows that the masterplan works.

Ed Lister The introduction of colour can be the start of a journey that becomes more intense as you venture farther into the site.

Michel Mossessian I think it is elegant. I am impressed by how architectural it is.

60 seconds with NORD

What do you think when you hear the words ‘business park’?
Historically they seem like soulless places. Just floorplate and skin.

And when you hear the words ‘airport city’?
It’s actually a bit of a conundrum. A city suggests people in residence but an airport suggests the opposite – people who are just passing through.

What is the single most appealing aspect of the site and masterplan?
The potential of working with the brook and the woodland, as well as responding to the ‘bigness’ of the large-scale airport structures.

In one sentence, sum up how you’re bringing the site to life.
We’re inspired by the Manchester slogan ‘original modern’ so we’re taking cues from the city’s heritage – ‘Cottonopolis’,  for example – to create an appropriate, responsive new industrial townscape.

Which Manchester pop song sums up your approach?
‘Heart and Soul’ by Joy Division.

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