First up in my #BuildingsILove blog series is the Beetham Tower. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, when I stand on the balcony of my flat in the nearby Hacienda, I can see it, standing like the ultimate glass megalith. Secondly, when the building was first constructed in the early noughties (it was completed by Carillion in 2006), I thought it was horrible. As time has marched on, however, I have fallen in love with it. Come rain or shine, the sky is always reflected back off the glazing and this provides an unbelievable show, regardless of the time of year. The audacious scale of the structure provides a beacon and talisman throughout the city and the region as a whole. A non-Mancunian once said to me that if they were ever lost, they would search out the Beetham and they would know which direction they needed to travel in. So, it’s useful, as well as being beautiful!
Beetham Tower at sunset, Manchester. Photo by Leonie Thomas
The building stands at 168 metres, making it the tallest building in Manchester. It is currently the 11th tallest building in the UK and the tallest outside London. When it opened in 2006, it was the tallest residential building in the UK and the second tallest in Europe. The building was originally planned to reach 171 metres, but was reduced by three metres to accommodate local wind conditions. It is located at the southern end of Deansgate, on the corner of Great Bridgewater Street and opposite Liverpool Road.
The building was designed by Ian Simpson now SimpsonHaugh and Partners and comprises 48 floors. Of these, the first 22 are occupied by the Hilton Hotel, the 23rd is the renowned Sky Bar, offering panoramic views across the North West to the Pennines in the east and Snowdonia and the Irish Sea in the west. The remaining 25 floors are apartments with the swishest address in the city.
The tower was very much of its time and a significant piece of Manchester’s regeneration jigsaw. The UK economy was experiencing a real boom (ironic really, given what came a few years later) and many similar high-rise towers were constructed in other UK cities, although none of them rivalled the height of the Beetham in Manchester.
Prior to construction, the empty site was an ad-hoc car park. A planning application was submitted by the Beetham Organisation in July 2003 and permission was granted in October 2003. By the end of 2003, 206 of its 219 apartments and 4 of its 16 penthouses had been pre-sold.
Construction commenced in spring 2004 and the building reached a height of 125 metres in July 2005, when it became the tallest skyscraper outside London. Topping-out took place on April 26 2006.
The Beetham Tower cost £150m to construct.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that the people of Manchester either love or hate the building. As I say above, I definitely fall into the latter camp.
Visually, the building is stunning, with full-height glazing reflecting the sky and clouds. It is located to the west of the city, so sunsets make a lovely backdrop at all times of the year.
I found this fascinating profile of Ian Simpson and the famed olive grove at the top of the tower.
Looking up at the Beetham Tower. Photo by Leonie Thomas
The Beetham hum
In windy weather, the building creates an eerie humming or singing noise. I can attest to the fact that it can be extremely intense. The noise is believed to come from the building’s glass fin at the top. Works have been undertaken to reduce the noise, but it definitely still hums! I asked someone recently who lives there whether they could hear it and they told me they can.
Here’s a quick video to demonstrate (with thanks to Paul):
I have heard some amusing stories about the hum, including one where some tourists were seen running terrified down Deansgate, thinking that aliens were about to land. Other descriptions include a nuclear warning system. From a personal perspective, it’s ok, apart from when I’m trying to sleep or speak to someone on the phone, but it’s one of those anomalies which make a city unique.