Progress on our Oxford Road entrance

9 10 2014

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Its been a while since the last blog post, but there has been much progress on site, with the biggest difference being visible at the Oxford Road side of the building. A month or two ago, staff ceased to be able to enter the building through the original portico and we currently have a temporary side entrance. From then onwards, our new contractors, Manchester & Cheshire have been busy reconfiguring the stone steps, removing the brick and terracotta walls and levelling out the ground to make our new landscaped frontage and sculpture terrace.

The following images chart this progress:

Each stone step is numbered before removal

Each stone step is numbered before removal

This one is number 38!

This one is number 38!

The brick structure beneath the stone steps revealed

The brick structure beneath the stone steps revealed

The Mike Lyons sculpture 'Phalanx' is carefully removed from site

The Mike Lyons sculpture ‘Phalanx’ is carefully removed from site

Foundations are put in place for siting sculpture and for the new steps and disabled access

Foundations are put in place for siting sculpture and for the new steps and disabled access

New stone steps are carefully aligned and laid in place

New stone steps are carefully aligned and laid in place

The base for a new set of steps is constructed near the gates onto Oxford Road

The base for a new set of steps is constructed near the gates onto Oxford Road

While the new build element of our project is still somewhat hidden behind the hoardings at the park side of the Gallery, everyone passing can enjoy progress at the Oxford Road side. We are now counting down to our reopening to the public on Saturday 14 February 2015 and excitement is growing – we can’t wait to welcome everyone back into our lovely building, both the old and the new.

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New Landscaping design facing Oxford Road

29 06 2014

New Landscaping design facing Oxford Road

With only four months to go before the Whitworth reopens its doors, life for everyone at the Gallery has ramped up a notch or two. Last week saw the arrival on site of our Phase II contractors, Manchester & Cheshire Construction Co Ltd., who will be joining ISG on completing the overall building project for the new Whitworth. The second phase of the project focuses on the original frontage of the Gallery facing onto Oxford Road which will be completely re-landscaped, combining an architectural design from MUMA, a new lighting scheme by engineers, Buro Happold, garden design by Sarah Price and the installation of existing sculptures and new commissions onto a sculpture terrace.

In anticipation of the Oxford Road Corridor scheme, which will see private vehicles removed from a length of Oxford Road, including directly in front of the Whitworth, there will be no vehicle access into the Gallery grounds. Instead, visitors arriving by car or coach will approach the building from Denmark Road, while anyone using public transport, cycle or on foot will be able to use either the new Parkside entrance or the redeveloped entrance as shown in the architect’s drawing above.

All the existing gates will remain, but the current road (due to be dug up over the next few weeks) will be replaced by a gently sloping stone and bound gravel route, and reconfigured step-free entrance, providing level access from the outer pavements all the way into the building. There will be a terrace area for events, gatherings and the display of artworks; all the existing trees will be retained and complemented with new formal planting, lawns, seating and soft landscaping.

Tibetan Cherry

Tibetan Cherry

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The soft landscaping designs by Sarah Price will include loosely clipped ‘cloud’ hedging to create a low rolling structure, formal trees such as Tibetan Cherry providing interest with decorative flowers, leaves and bark, and year round colour through flowering bulbs.

'Cloud' hedging and flowering bulbs

‘Cloud’ hedging and flowering bulbs

So far, much of the work on site has been at the back of the original building, but there will be great changes to the site facing Oxford Road over the next few months. This final part of the scheme is being funded mostly by Arts Council England and will link both sides of the Gallery and the surrounding Whitworth Park through the landscaping and lighting designs – watch this space.





Art in the Park – 4

20 05 2014

Art in the Park - 4

Last month’s teaser question made reference to an artwork that has been a permanent fixture of the Whitworth’s grounds since 2009. The sight of Gustav Metzger’s striking installation Flailing Trees will be very familiar to those who travel along Oxford Road day-to-day. The road, upon which we are situated, is reportedly Europe’s “busiest bus route”, and channels those based in South Manchester into and out of the city centre for work, hospital appointments, lectures at the universities or evenings out.

Originally a commission for Manchester International Festival (hyperlink: http://www.mif.co.uk), the work consists of 20 upended willow trees, heads plunged into a base of around 7 tonnes of concrete. It occupied a space in Manchester Peace Garden for the duration of the 2009 festival before being moved (with the assistance of a crane) down to its existing spot outside our Oxford Road entrance. It is now part of our permanent collection and is viewable through all seasons, against the changing backdrop of Whitworth Park.

Described by Metzger when speaking to the Guardian (Hyperlink: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/interactive/2009/jun/30/gustav-metzger-manchester-festival) as a “protest piece,” he justifies the ‘violent arrangement’, the roots unnaturally exposed, bare and jutting towards the sky – in juxtaposition with the living lushness of the trees of Whitworth Park, as a stand against the brutality that humans display towards the natural world.

Gustav Metzger is a hugely influential artist and political activist who pioneered the concept of Auto-Destructive Art in the 1960s and the Art Strike of the 1990s. A new exhibition focusing on Metzger’s “auto-creative” work will open later this month at Kettle’s Yard (Hyperlink: http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/exhibitions/2014/metzger/)

And so for our next month’s teaser question – ‘Which one-night-only park artwork was inspired by this song?’