Introducing Ando To Manchester

PiccGdns Piccadilly Gardens Pavilion

In October 1998 whilst in western Japan I was invited by Tadao Ando to stay a couple of weekends in his guest studio-apartment in Umeda Osaka. My stay coincided with a visit to Japan by the Osaka -Manchester Forum OMF a delegation of industrial and business executives attempting to set up trade and cultural links between Kansai and the North West. It occured to me perhaps the best way to symbolically cement such a relation would be for the OMF to invite Osaka most famous sonĀ  Ando sensei design a public building for the centre of the Manchester. I had imagined a modest contribution maybe a small cafe or garden of cherry trees as in his Hyogo Green Network!. Upon my return to the UK and with this idea firmly planted in my mind I decided I would visit Manchester in late November, to attend the Kansai/NW England Business Forum 98 debrief, at the Author Andersen office behind Piccadilly. Following the presentation and discussion at this Japan Society of North West England event I earnestly networked my way around the reception determined to offer my Tadao Ando proposition to as many influential delegates as possible. One important member of the Kansai forum visit was unable to attend that evening but fortunately I did manage to persued his assistant to pass on the germ of my idea and left my contact details with her.

I had informed the Ove Arup & Partners Consulting Engineers representative that I personally knew Tadao Ando and his colleagues, and felt if an appropriate opportunity arose I could offer a vital conduit to his office in Osaka. Several days later following my return to Devon I received a telephone call from Peter Budd a director of Arups Manchester office who had been a key member of the Kansai delegation asking for clarification of my OMF debrief mission. I explained my eagerness to visit Manchester and described my idea of involving Ando in the regeneration of the city and that I was confident I may be able to provide an introduction to the reknowned Osaka based architect. Peter Budd explained the potential of a major re-development of a public site in the city and described a forthcoming limited competition in which he would like to invite Ando to participate with Arups. He suggested Arups would contact Andos office and I gave him the appropriate contact details and recommended they mentioned my name. On December 14th Peter Budd sent formal invitation from the directors of Arups to Tadao Ando to participate in a design competition. His fax stated it would be fitting celebration of OMF that designers from Osaka and Manchester collaborate on a major project . He explained the space is so significant to the city that only international designers of the highest quality will be considered for pre-qualification. They would therefore be honoured if Ando joined Arups and EDAW in submitting credentials. He hoped Ando would lead architecturally, EDAW the planning and landscaping element and Arups the engineering. Time was short and they needed to have their Andos office submission available by the following week. Peter Budd added that he had long been an admirer and it would be exciting to work with Ando.

As Peter had duly mentioned my name in his letter the following day I received a phone call from my friend Hiroshi Araki the architect responsible for international affairs at Ando's office. Araki san was seeking reassurance about the authenticity of the Arups proposal and whether I knew anything about the proposed scheme.. Bearing in mind Tadao Ando's huge committments he was concerned the project was of an appropriate status to warrant the Andos attention and the inevitable outlay to meet the Arups request with such a short lead time. For clarification the same day in order to maintain the Japanese trust and as a form of recommendation of Andos involvement in the project I sent a fax to Ando explaining my OMF proposal and the Manchester context. I describe my initiative and added I felt an Ando building in Manchester would compliment the aims to make it a progessive international city. This was a very significant scheme for a most important public location in the City and I hope Ando was able despite the short notice to contribute to the scheme. In the wake of the OMF discussions I recommend he considered very carefully teaming up with ARUP & EDAW. I finally added I would be delighted to contribute in a small way to Ando's first building in the UK.

The industrious Ando's office was able to meet the deadline and in February I was informed by Arups that the team had been shortlisted for the project. The concept prepared by Ando and the team had to be submitted to the client , the City Authorities by the beginning of March with interviews later that month. "We are one of six and are quite hopeful." Following this I heard nothing until I read the headline Ando to work in Manchester BD Buiding Design May 14th 1999. Delighted I sent a copy of the article and congratulations to Andos office and received a fax from Hiroshi Araki stating they were "grad" to hear that they won the competition. "We have to thank you on this. You were the one recommended us for the competition in the first place." They hoped the project would be "well developed and become successful".. Araki san went to Manchester in the second week of June for the first meeting.
The redeveloped Piccadilly Gardens in central Manchester was completed in June 2002.

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