Civil Justice Centre

Building of the decade

Roger Federer. Shane Warne. Zinedine Zidane. Contenders for best athlete of the decade, maybe, but not one among them is the best new building completed in the North West in the 2000s.

These are mine. What are yours?

Civil Justice Centre 1. Civil Justice Centre, Manchester, 2007. Just bloody gorgeous. People argue about the success of Spinningfields – usually envious office agents and developers not involved with it. Lacking sunlight, corporate, samey. But there is no argument about the CJC. The witty, radical, imposing design was the debut in the region for Aussie architects Denton Corker Marshall in Manchester. Pure class.

2. Beetham Tower, 111 Old Hall Street, Liverpool, 2004. Okay, better-looking buildings were to come along later in the decade when values and investment allowed. But it's easy to forget how crap the city was before it got motoring. At the end of the 1990s it was a dire, unloved, downward looking place with a can't-do mentality. And absolute scepticism about any grand projects.

Beetham Tower Liverpool Then Hugh Frost, hitherto a student landlord in south Liverpool, agreed to let his supremely ambitious son get a hand on the wheel, headed into the city centre and decided to kick ass.

I was a young reporter on the business desk of the Liverpool Daily Post in 1999 when I was invited to lunch with the equally young Stephen Beetham and his stepmother, Cathy Frost.

After an entertaining lunch in Ziba on Berry Street, just about the only decent restaurant back then, I got back to the office and gave a press-pack from Beetham to my boss, business editor Alex Hunt. He read it and raised his eyebrows: "You've got your first splash [page one lead story]." Hacks on the Echo laughed and said I'd been sold a kite. I still don't know what that means but the Beetham Tower was built and I wrote a lot more property splashes after that (not all about buildings that were built).

The Hilton or 301 Deansgate by Beetham 3. The Hilton, 301 Deansgate, Manchester, 2006.

The Beethams refined and improved their model of hotel-under-residential for this bigger and better version. Attracted a massive amount of national coverage not only for the developer but also Manchester and architect Ian Simpson.

Dominates the city skyline like no other building.

4. The Lowry, 2000, and Imperial War Museum North, 2002. So I cheated and put two in fourth place. It's my list. Also, is it Salford Quays, Trafford Wharf, The Quays, Manchester, edge-of-centre, city fringe, city region, Greater Manchester. Who cares?

The LowryThey're just two cool buildings that didn't resemble anything else in Britain at the time and marked a cultural gear change and geographical shift in focus for Manchester.

The sexy shiny couple are separated by the ship canal that marks the local authority border. From the outside, I enjoy them as one view.

Imperial War Museum North It's funny to think about what Peel had planned for the third headland opposite these two landmark buildings if the BBC deal had not happened. If memory serves me rightly a five-star hotel was to complete an interesting threesome.

5. Timber Wharf, Manchester, 2002. The real way to do city living. No badly insulated refurbished warehouse over a nightclub, stepping out into the morning vomit on the street below. The wharf was Urban Splash's first new build development and the result of an international competition won by Glenn Howells.

Timber WharfIt reminds me of those giant glass condos in Paris suburbs full of human detail and intrigue. Its appeal is as much about location: oddly discreet but showy at the same time, removed but not far from the madding crowd, walk-able along the canal in to town, with space around to breathe, and with a busy train-line out front for added voyeuristic glamour.

As a car-less commuter it creates an irresistibly fascinating threshold as you enter Manchester on the 7.59 from Hunts Cross to Norwich. Bikes on balconies, trendy objets d'art in giant windows, residents on mobile phones watching the train watch them.

Your Comments

Downing’s Parkway Gate off the Mancunian Way (another Ian Simpson design) looks amazing when the sun hits it. Surely the most attractive example of student accommodation?

By Pete

20 Chapel St in Liverpool’s commercial district gets my vote, Mr U


Sorry Paul, but West Tower’s miles nicer than Beetham Tower. Please amend accordingly!

By Dougal Paver

Bound to say this as an Urban Splasher but sneaking in late in the decade was Alsop’s Chips at New Islington. Love it or hate it it’s a striking building and certainly provokes a lot of opinion!

By Leanne

number 3 is actually number two

By erm

Surely BDP’s new manc studio deserves a shout – it’s not only a looker but also quite clever on the inside. I especially like the the two storey concrete wall that looks like timber and the fact they are trying to encourage Black Redstarts back into the city.

By stirling work

Doog – Of course it is but that’s the point, number one set the way for those that followed. Nice=Nice. Best is sthg else.

By Ed

I agree, CJC looks great. It still has an impact when you visit Spinningfields. I really like ACC Liverpool – it looks brilliant on the waterfront and has given the city a top class venue.

By Dan G

I know it’s a bit of a Marmite bulding (you either love it or hate it) but Grosvenor’s One Park West, at Liverpool One, is one of my favourite new buildings in the city. To me it looks like a boat which has run aground off the Mersey and embedded itself in Chavasse Park. It’s also opposite one of my other all time favourites pieces of architecture, the Liver Building. An obvious choice but I never tire of seeing the view of the Liver Birds during sunset.

By Emma

West Tower completely outshines Beetham but doesn’t match up to Manchester’s Hilton.

Liverpool’s ACC gets my vote.

By Jade

301 Deansgate is Stephen. 111 Old Hall Street is Hugh. aka Lord Frost of Plazaland

By meandmymum

Paul, you’re really stirring up controversy prior to Xmas!! First leaving yours truly out of the Property Hot 100 ( a mortal blow LOL ) and then compiling list of nice buildings without Beetham’s West Tower !! Late Entry is the big wheel at Liverpool One.Regards, Phil

By Phil Rees-Roberts

Urbis. 2002

By yoyo

Liberty’s HQ Chester building is pretty iconic – has to be up there! Think your list is pretty much spot on apart from that Paul…

By Kate

Phil – funnily enough, you were at 101! I like the Property Hot 100 name tho, thanks for that. What’s your fee?

By ed

how about No1 Deansgate – 1st “high profile” resi scheme – long before beetham tower.

EastLands…OK, its not wembley, but more people use that every week than the others put together, it’s brought a bit of new life into the east manchester area – and of course, hosted the commonwealths.

By thinking

What. No Beth Tweddle?

By Tokyo Jack
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