2. “Walk in a direction you fancy and look for some kind of interruption. Record it.”
This second command took us North along Deansgate and up towards Victoria Bridge. If you follow the red line drawn by our GPS tracker on Google Maps you might think we’ve made an error – taking the GPS route as the truth and ignoring our own recollection of the route. Instead of going along Victoria Bridge downstream, or the Cathedral Approach upstream, the line crosses the River Irwell in between. But as OpenStreetMap shows, we did in fact walk over the new pedestrian bridge on the so-called Greengate Embankment. This is the area I’ve blogged about previously in relation to Pontevedra. The bridge is part of a large swathe of pedestrian-only land traversing the Manchester-Salford boundary, stretching from Manchester Cathedral to a riverside path upstream.
There is a couple of points I want to make about this area, then in reference to the notion of ‘interruption’. Firstly, that both adjacent bridges were existing and irreconcilable ‘interruptions’ to the pedestrianized future of the Greengate project. Victoria Bridge allows automobile traffic to flow onto Deansgate and in the opposite direction onto Chapel Street and thus couldn’t be pedestrianized itself. Cathedral Approach on the other hand provides access to a privately-run car park for city commuters on the old Exchange Station site. It too couldn’t be utilized without some difficulty. Hence the absurdity of constructing a third bridge over the River Irwell in less than a 100m stretch to combat these obstinate architectural interruptions.
Secondly, and following on from this, that soon-to-be Greengate Square is currently, and ironically considering it’s rebirth into a pedestrianized area, an expanse of more car parks. Back in 1940 it comprised Greengate Rubber Works, a timber yard, leather works and rows of terraced houses (see below). Now it is covered by 4 different parking areas ran by 4 separate operations. It couldn’t be less of a contrast. In the 73 intervening years Greengate has turned from a manufacturing hub of factories and adjacent dwellings into a pure space of rentier capitalism for automobile service workers in the city. The interruption in this instance, of course, was WWII. A temporal rather than a spatial interruption in the development of the Manchester-Salford boundary.
The 1940 Bomb Map from which I’ve taken the below image doesn’t include damage to buildings in Salford as it was produced by the Manchester Corporation. However, it is relatively easy to deduce that many of the operations in the Greengate area were destroyed, or at least damaged beyond repair in the German bombing raids of December 1940. This is because Exchange Station was extensively damaged in the same raids, as were a multitude of buildings just within the boundary line, as is visible on the 1940 Bomb Map in both the red shading and annotations. In short, the Germans knew the area was a key manufacturing hub of the city. The Greengate area is only just recovering from this aerial intervention – linking Manchester back to Salford by way of a pedestrianized expanse.