Tower of Light, Manchester review – a work of fantasy and innovation

Inspired by Tudor palaces and one of David Attenborough’s favourite creatures, Tonkin Liu’s flue for Manchester’s new sustainable power system is more than just eye-catching Manchester has long liked garnishing industry with ornament. For all the four-square practicality of its Victorian streets, its buildings are eclectic in their detail – Byzantine, Flemish, gothic and baroque, encrusted and polychrome, with turrets, domes, gables, swags and cartouches formed from stone, brick and soot-resistant ceramics. Mancunian architecture grew fantasy from the filth of coal-fired wealth. The Tower of Light, white and sparkling, updates this tradition for a low-carbon age. It is essentially a big chimney, but not as LS Lowry would have known it. It’s a dispersion flue, to use the technical term, a 40 metre-high device for extracting fumes from a gas-fired combined heat and power unit beneath it. Its swirling forms resemble those that Antoni Gaudí put on top of Barcelona apartment blocks. They are inspired, say its architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, both by the ornate chimneys on Tudor palaces and by the glass sponge, a submarine organism that is one of David Attenborough’s favourite creatures. Continue reading...

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