WHEN CHARLES BARRY won the competition in the 1820s to design the building that is now Manchester Art Gallery he did so with a motto, 'Nihil Pulchrum Nisi Utile', or 'Nothing Beautiful Unless Useful'.
SimpsonHaugh have abandoned the Modernist mantra of 'Less of More'. Maybe for (Sir Richard) 'Leese is More'.
Across St Peter's Square the link building between Manchester Town Hall Extension and Manchester Central Library (the latter two designed by Vincent Harris in the 1930s) is now open to the public. It's by SimpsonHaugh and Partners and incorporates a degree of beauty, yet sadly is useless.
We've revisited the arguments about the blocking off of Library Walk, the underhand way it was achieved, and so on almost to the point of nausea.
But now it and the gates on Mount Street are finished we can see those who were against the structure were right. It serves no purpose.
If the council had waited a month to see how the refurbished Town Hall Extension and Central Library were getting on then they would have abandoned the link building as a futile waste of £3.5m. Communication was perfectly lovely between the two without it.
As architects who still reference the 'greats' of Modernism then SimpsonHaugh have utterly abandoned the old Mies van der Rohe mantra of 'Less of More'. Maybe for (Sir Richard) 'Leese is More'. To smash through the walls of the Harris' buildings to create this entrance into a void that leads to two more entrances is incomprehensible.
Yet it has to be said there's an elegance to SimpsonHaugh's building when viewed from the inside. The ceiling is wackily fun (although in danger of dating quickly) while the Manchester bee decoration and the Tudor Rose mosaics - a copy of the design in the main Manchester Town Hall - are subtle and understated. This structure in another situation might work very well. It would have made a lovely contemporary park tearooms or been perfect for one of those temporary structures at the Venice Biennale.
Shame that one of the excuses for the blockage was to curtail the space being used as a urinal on Saturday nights because two far better such spots have been created up against the Town Hall Extension wall on the St Peter's Square side. The other major design failure comes with the gates, also by SimpsonHaugh, at Mount Street, which are overscaled and domineering yet look very easy to climb. The gateposts are as wide as birch tree trunks, while the brackets on the walls to which the gates are padlocked are far too clumsy.
At one point you can still see how the uninterrupted Library Walk was truly beautiful - stare upon it and weep. So let's bask in that view and then draw a line under it. The battle is lost and the link building and the gates are up.
Here are the pictures.
Time to get on with our lives - well at least until our request for a clear breakdown of the costs of Library Walk is returned.