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Mamma Mia - Top architect dubs Rochdale – the ‘Venice of the North’

22 October 2018

Professor in Architecture Sally Stone with 2 students.

Rochdale has been compared to one of the world's most visited cities by a leading Professor of Architecture.

Sally Stone, a Reader in Architecture at the Manchester School of Architecture, thinks that the gothic architecture of Rochdale Town Hall and its surrounding buildings compares to major landmarks in Venice like the Doge's Palace.

45 students from the Manchester School of architecture will be working on Rochdale's Heritage Action Zone

After visiting Rochdale as part of a project that will see 45 students from the university's masters programme work with us on the Heritage Action Zone, Sally said: "Venice and Rochdale have some splendid examples of gothic architecture and a strong connection to water, with the Rochdale Canal and the newly re-opened river in Rochdale and the Grand Canal in Venice. They also both have lots of fantastic public open space, particularly the area around the town hall and the re-opened river."

Students from the world-renowned architecture school, which is the 7th best in the world, will be working on theoretical projects to improve Drake Street and its surrounding areas, which is one of just 18 Heritage Action Zones across the country.

And Sally reckons that Rochdale also has more than a few things in common with Venice's close neighbour, Vicenza.

She added: "Vicenza and Rochdale are secondary, smaller towns, close to big cities, like Manchester and Venice, but they both have really important architecture surrounded by more modest architecture.

"Vicenza has some really impressive buildings, built by the architect Palladio, like the Teatro Olimpico theatre and the public hall Basillica Palladiana. Rochdale has some equally impressive buildings like the town hall, the old fire station and the St John the Baptist Roman Catholic church. The newer buildings like Number One Riverside are also really striking, as are individual structures like the town hall clock tower."

The students will work with us for a year on the important project

The project, which has been named 'Rochdale by way of Venice', will see the students working on a year-long project to bring fresh ideas to key areas around the Heritage Action Zone. As part of this, they will create a guide with recommendations for how any new buildings in the area should be designed, including building heights and forms and relationships to other buildings in the street. They will also conduct surveys on key buildings like Champness Hall.

Sally said: "The students can put forward really creative ideas and suggestions because they're not constrained by a brief. They will look at really inventive ideas like cooperative housing and multi-generational housing and around 40 per cent of them are overseas students, from places like China, India and Malaysia, so they will bring a totally different prospective.

"We are really excited about working in Rochdale. What's nice about it is that it can accommodate both the old and the new and the ambition is what ties it all together."

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