Made in Manchester
February, 2008
Some time ago, a friend of mine sent me an email in which he announced that the subject of his message was 'Made in Manchester’. It was a Powerpoint presentation on the construction of the Millau Viaduct in France, the highest bridge in the world.
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And what a structure! Manchester has seen many great beginnings: the very first real computer in the world, amongst other things. The viaduct was designed by Norman Foster Partners, and Foster says in his biography on the company's website that he was born in Manchester. Other sources say he was born in Reddish, now part of Stockport (in Greater Manchester, as was), but we'll let that pass. He certainly went to school in Manchester, and graduated from the Manchester School of Architecture. He is in illustrious company. Other Mancunians include Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden (and Little Lord Fauntleroy, as well!); Richmal Crompton, creator of the Just William stories; the composers Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir William Walton (responsible for some of the best film music ever written); L.S. Lowry, only begetter of the matchstick men; Alan Turing, the founder of modern computing science (born in London but did all his great work in Manchester and committed suicide in Wilmslow, Cheshire); Mike 'The Rochdale Cowboy' Harding, actually born, not in Rochdale, but in Lower Crumpsall, Manchester; actors Albert Finney, Robert Powell, David Warner, John Thaw, and most of the Coronation Street stars. The actor Robert Donat went to Burnage Grammar School, where I remember using his old Latin Primer. The list goes on. Many say that Norman Foster's greatest achievement is the Swiss Re in London, known as 'The Gherkin', or the new airport in Hong Kong. But nothing is as breathtaking as his Millau Viaduct over the river Tarn in southern France. The Powerpoint presentation reminded me of that series of astounding photographs of the building of the Eiffel Tower, showing it at various stages as it was going up. This series is similar, but even more amazing. Coincidentally, the southern end of the viaduct is at Béziers, which is twinned with Stockport.
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