Have you noticed the city’s love affair with tonal cladding? No? Just us then. Well let us tell you, it’s bloody everywhere. Jenga strips of coloured steel, Tetris-ing their way down the sides of new office blocks, hospitals, hotels and apartments. Have a look – you’ll see how they’ve invaded the skin of the city.
Today, the University of Liverpool opened its new Ronald Ross Building: a £23 million research centre, cementing the city’s world-class health sciences. Handsome enough, pic r, but look at the cladding! Warning – strobe alert. What is going on?
From the graphite and gunmetal blocks – like an old testcard on a black and white telly – on the waterfront’s hotels (we see the new Traveloge’s cladding has already started to fall off, like the Malmaison’s did last year) to the vibrant purple and green at the new St Catherine’s hospital (pic 2), and the stern new Redmond’s Building for JMU (pic 3).
That’s if the cladding stays on.
You don’t get that with stonework, or buildings with genuine architectural detailing. These buildings substitute a bit of slap, a cosmetic make-over, to cover up the fact that there’s nothing going on underneath. But a building’s beauty should be a little more than skin deep, surely?
That’s not to say a bit of lettering doesn’t help. We like the big gold LIBRARY sign, just erected on the backend of Central Library. Not sure about the font. But, hey, it’s better than Comic Sans. And, of course, we’re very excited about the new library, so perhaps we shouldn’t judge it by its cover.
Where did the cladding start? And when will it end (we’ve just spotted a purple and orange specimen, off Smithdown Road) who can tell? Possibly Manchester’s grim Hilton Tower, on Deansgate was the first local example.
To us, they all look more like budget airport hotels, and show a certain lack of inspiration, and creeping sameness to our streetscapes.
Maybe you love them? Whatever, you can’t avoid them these days. At least Mann Island has the decency to be all black. Maybe we’re growing to like that place after all…