Stepping down from the tram anywhere west of pomona, it's hard not to feel like an intruder. That this is not a land made for the casual visitor - that the aimless meandering of the city pedestrian is not accounted for. Corporate security is evident, yet not overt, as the sentinels on guard outside the offices are all volunteers, tempted there by the offer of a 10 minute break from selling private health care to immerse themselves in a congregational cloud of cigarette smoke by the front step.

This is a place that has not yet been massaged by the tread of human feet. Its structural tensions are still writ large across the landscape, making the bombast of the developer appear in a visible form. The lazy architectural gestures that inform every construction are unmitigated from public view, yet are gated from public access. It's all big, but not that big. With none of the superlatives of its greedier cousins at Canary Wharf it appears merely parochial in its excess.

The showier examples of architecture within this fantasy land are unrestrained exercises in vanity, with little in the way of an environmental legacy to restrain them. We are in a derelict landscape, flat and with no contours to provide the keynote. Working from a starting point of little, a nothing has been created. Grand concepts set within car parks and outlet malls speak a language of the isolated and irresponsible intellectual and appear as concubines in the court of cant. The dominant grain of exclusive greed simply rendering them as sad as a happy child in an advert for a product sold to adults.

One can walk in this land. There are routes that cross over, under and through, but one cannot stop, for one feels no compunction to dwell. To stand still is to expose yourself to CCTV technology that senses the suspicious loiterer. To stand still is also to recognise that this is a land where journeys mean nothing, that all movement is just in or out. One can eat, but food here is simply the organic form of the architecture, imitative and industrial. Those who prepare and serve it simply choosing to do so because the hours suit them better than those on offer at the call centre. And this way they don't have to pretend to like anyone that they talk to.   There may be some index somewhere that allows civilisation to be measured by ones proximity to a source of fresh bread. On this index the land of Salford Quays would score very low.  

Clive Gillman 2004

 

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