Manors Car Parks distinctive form derives from the constraints of the train line to east which collided with the new Central East Motorway (A167 M) which dips beneath, shaping the car park between these constraints. The curvature of the concrete decks sweeps uniformally across the site, interrupted only by the circulation ramp.
Manor's car park was the first multi-story car park in Newcastle and marked the beginnings of the council's car-centric plans for the modernisation of the city in 1963.
Manor car park connected and accompanied by an equally dramatic and elongated pedestrian footbridge from Manors Metro, touching the car park for access before swooping under Swan House. The bridge takes what feels like the longest imaginable route over the motorway, allowing pedestrians to bypass Northumberland high street and take in the theatrics of the swooping concrete forms and motorway traffic.
The Central Motorway lanes colliding, strands diving up and down, overlapping with Metro's, walkers, buses, cars, gulls, a city swerving in and out of itself. Manors feels like the axis from which things spin, a weird cog-like architectural maquette comes to life.
But visiting today, emptied out, minus one or two cars and a city council van, the apocalyptic surreality hits. All these old zones, recast in different wattage, still bones and bolts in place, everything that is solid still very much stands. The overlapping layers are as they were. Same views, too, of cross sectioned space, the valley unfolding, the river, the buildings, old and new, through pebble-dashed window swatches of the car park. Eerie and empty, surfaces etched with flash heated body outlines, the city is locked down, conjuring a future is so far out of reach.
Just spiralling like marbles silently rattling down shoots, like all this is just made of plastic or air or the flimsy molecules of history, Burns' car-centric plans just spluttered and wheezed and coughed up in the stairwells. When we finally break out, we realise we've passed through a wormhole: we are back where we began under an overhanging skywalk.
From the top floor of the car park (which used to be the second-to-top until the roof was closed), through window swatches held in with pebble dash, new horizons open up. The sky clears and, beyond the Metro’s tracks and the Tyne Bridge’s tongue, the skin of The Sage glistens amid the luxury quayside flats, the Baltic to the left, a whole ecosystem in flux across the river rising above. Here the valley's convexity becomes maybe most apparent.
1st April 2020