Photography by Alicia Day, MJ Smith and James Taylor
Words by Harry Potts
Since the 1996 Manchester bombing by the IRA, SimpsonHaugh has played a leading role in the reconstruction of the city, with many of Manchester’s most notable new buildings having been designed by the firm.
Ian Simpson, the son of a demolition contractor, was born in Heywood, near Rochdale in 1955. He studied architecture at Liverpool Polytechnic and went on to work in London with Foster and Partners. After three years, he moved back to Manchester and set up Ian Simpson Architects (now SimpsonHaugh) with Rachel Haugh. The main offices of the practice are in Castlefield, Manchester with a London office, working on several projects in the capital.
Ian was the architect responsible for the city’s most recognisable landmark, The Beetham Hilton Tower designed as part of the post-bomb city centre reconstruction. On its completion in 2007, he took the top two floors (48th and 49th) as his own. The apartment includes an olive grove: 30 mature trees were hoisted up by crane before the roof was completed. He continues to live there today.
Post IRA bomb in 1996, SimpsonHaugh won an international competition organised by Manchester City Council to create a masterplan for the regeneration of the city centre. Ian’s local knowledge and his strategy to expand the city centre formed the core of the proposals.
“Manchester was divided between the wealthy south and poor north and Market Street was the dividing line,” he says. “I wanted to break that barrier.”
The solution was New Cathedral Street and Exchange Square. Urbis and Cathedral Gardens followed in response to another international competition.
Ian’s design portfolio of Manchester projects is impressive:
Beetham Hilton Tower, Great Jackson Street Buildings, Urbis, No.1 St Peter’s Square, Manchester Town Hall Extension, Library Walk, Deansgate Square, No.1 Spinningfields, Shudehill Transport Interchange and First Street to name but a few.
Student reflection: James Taylor
“To begin with I was slightly anxious about the shoot, however when I met Ian he was welcoming and the fact that he was looking forward to meeting us destroyed all my nerves. There was some pressure on time as we didn’t have as long as we originally thought, however I always work better under pressure so I wasn’t phased. The only issue was not being able to get to higher ground to capture the city as a backdrop for the shoot. The sunlight was harsh on the day, but in my opinion this worked well with some of the portraits. There were definite positives to be taken from the experience; in particular, working under pressure with a client, this helped me build my confidence – this has always been an issue for me. Finally, having the opportunity to capture some amazing portraits of the architect who designed so many iconic Manchester buildings was a real privilege.”
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)