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‘The city needs a skyline that matches its ambition’ – the race for Manchester’s tallest tower is on

Manchester's dynamic skyline is set for a seismic shift with Salboy's Viadux 2a, poised to become the city's tallest tower. Managing Director Simon Ismail discusses the project's ambitions, from redefining the skyline to contributing to sustainable living.

Manchester is a city on the move.

People who’ve lived here for even five years have seen Manchester and Salford explode with towers, seemingly popping up every week.

And there’s no sign of things slowing down.

Is there anything more emblematic of this crazy turn of pace than Manchester’s tallest tower?

Announced earlier this month, Salboys Viadux phase two is set to topple Renaker’s D tower.

There she blows!

It will stand as the biggest tower on Manchester’s skyline. For now, at least.


“Manchester is a fast-growing, fast-moving and fast-changing city. People like me who’ve lived in Manchester or Salford all their lives have watched how Manchester has been transformed in the last two decades.” Simon Ismail, Managing Director, Salboy

In a bold move that echoes Manchester’s ceaseless evolution, Salboy, under the leadership of Managing Director Simon Ismail, has announced plans to construct the city’s tallest building—Viadux 2a.

In an exclusive interview, Ismail shares insights into the motivations, design philosophy, and the broader impact this towering endeavour will have on Manchester’s identity.

Manchester, a city synonymous with football fervor, global music icons, and academic excellence, has long been establishing itself on the international stage.

As the urban landscape undergoes a metamorphosis, Salboy’s Viadux 2a is a big example of the city’s growth, ambition, and commitment to providing world-class living spaces.

What motivated Salboy to compete in the race for the tallest building in Manchester, and how does Viadux 2a differentiate itself from other projects like Renaker’s Plot D?

He said: “In the last decade, Manchester has proven itself on the global stage as a leading international city.

“We are home to two of the world’s biggest football clubs, we’re always on the roster for global music stars’ tours, our world-class universities spawn business and academic leaders who stay on to build their careers in the city, and global brands are descending on Manchester to differentiate their brands and increase awareness (just look at Chanel landing in the Northern Quarter earlier this month).

“t’s fitting that Manchester enjoys a cityscape to match the reputation it’s worked hard to create.

“The Viadux scheme, in its totality, contributes towards that goal.

“The Viadux masterplan will deliver a neighbourhood of high quality, design-led homes that meet Manchester’s substantial need for accommodation at a range of price points and tenure types.

“At the same time, new plans for Viadux will bring to the Manchester cityscape a crowning feature that offers panoramic views of a city rich in heritage and sympathetic regeneration.”

Manchester is a city on the move at the moment. How do Salboy envision this project contributing to Manchester’s identity on a local, national, or even international scale?

“Manchester is a fast-growing, fast-moving and fast-changing city.

“People like me who’ve lived in Manchester or Salford all their lives have watched how Manchester has been transformed in the last two decades. The Viadux scheme was conceived several years ago as a project that would contribute to Manchester’s growing status on the global stage.

“The city needs a cityscape that matches its ambition and position internationally, and it needs destination locations like Viadux for people to visit and make their homes in the city from all over the world.”

“The way that we have designed Viadux does, however, have an equally important second purpose: to deliver homes with a vast range of price points and tenure types, recognising the urgent need for more high quality housing for more Mancunians.

“The people who will choose to live in a Viadux home – whether they are Manchester born and bred or visiting the city – will be able to enjoy city-centre living with green, open living spaces on their doorstep.”

The Viadux 2a project is currently in the consultation phase, with proposals open for feedback until the end of the year.

Ismail reveals an ambitious timeline, anticipating the submission of a planning application in early 2024.

As the project progresses, key milestones will unfold, shaping the city’s future in alignment with Viadux’s vision.

Working collaboratively with renowned architects SimpsonHaugh, Salboy ensures that Viadux stands as a symbol of architectural elegance.

The 76-storey tower, with its inclined faces, promises to create a dynamic response to varying light conditions, casting a distinctive silhouette on Manchester’s ever-changing skyline.

The design philosophy extends beyond mere aesthetics, prompting viewers to consider how these structures connect and contribute to the surrounding areas.

The city has some unique and varied architecture, does Salboy feel an obligation to keep things interesting in terms of design – or are buildings in the modern era made purely in terms of being utilitarian and ergonomics?

“We take design very seriously and are proud of the differences you can see and feel between each of the different schemes we have developed and are developing, not only around the North West but throughout the UK. For Viadux, we worked with the team at SimpsonHaugh – architects who know modern Manchester architecture inside out, usually because they designed it!

“SimpsonHaugh shares our design ethos at Viadux and has helped us to create a collection of complementary buildings that come together to become an elegant cluster of tall buildings that will be visible on the Manchester skyline from many different angles and perspectives.

“The tallest 76-storey building will create an elegant silhouette. Its inclined faces will catch light differently, creating a dynamic response to changes in light conditions resulting from the time of day/year, weather conditions or viewer’s perspective.

“The opportunity to design creative, unique modern buildings is endless – particularly when it comes to towers.

“When thinking about design, it’s important not to just look up. Instead, we need to look round the buildings. How well do they connect the areas around them to one another? Do they restore life to disused, brownfield sites in a way that makes the location safer and more welcoming? By building upwards, is the streetscape beneath bigger and more accommodating?

Given the increasing focus on climate change, how does Viadux 2a address climate resilience and contribute to the city’s efforts to mitigate environmental impact?

“Every Salboy development is created and built with environmental sustainability in mind. Our dedicated construction partner, DOMIS, uses green methods of construction throughout their build process. Whether we’re building a cluster of two-storey homes or 76-storey skyscrapers, the commitment to lowering and offsetting CO2 output is the same.

“At Viadux, we understand the importance of creating comfortable and sustainable living environments, not only for future Viadux residents but other residents, workers and pedestrians in the vicinity. Part of the design process, we’ve carried out thorough microclimate analysis to consider the impact of the scheme on daylight, overshadowing and wind and are satisfied that whatever we can do to mitigate negative impacts has been done.

“Not only will Viadux create new outdoor living space for residents, but a goal of our scheme is to improve all public spaces in the area, in particular along Albion Street and Great Bridgewater Street. We’re also preserving and enhancing the historic viaduct, making it easier and more pleasant to move around this important part of the city centre and access key public transport hubs.”

Critics have suggested that Manchester’s skyline lacks a focal point, but Viadux 2a aims to change that narrative.

Ismail firmly believes that upon completion, the masterplan will deliver a cluster of tall buildings that not only captivate visually but contribute significantly to Manchester’s identity.

Some people on our website have suggested that the Deansgate Square architecture is a bit soulless and that Manchester lacks a focal point on its skyline. Do you think Viadux 2a can become a focal point for Manchester’s skyline?

“Absolutely. Contributing to Manchester’s cityscape in a way that will have a lasting and positive impact has been central to our design process. Upon completion, the Viadux masterplan will deliver a cluster of tall buildings that provide a visually striking addition to Manchester’s skyline.”

How does the new development pay homage to or depart from historical architectural trends in the city?

“The Deansgate area is rich in history and many of its key landmarks are still intact. Viadux has been designed sympathetically with these spaces and features in mind.

“We make space for them rather than mask them. For instance, as part of the development process, the historic Castlefield Viaduct will be enlivened and regenerated by opening it out as a destination that more people can visit, appreciate and enjoy.

“Likewise, we will transform the footways and public realm around Great Bridgewater Street and Albion Street, bringing this part of the city centre back as a place that people feel safe walking through day or night, and want to spend time.

Will there be any aspect of the building open to the public, in terms of a restaurant or a viewing deck?

“There will be commercial and public realm space across the Viadux development, created specifically to meet the growing demand for city centre living while also bringing both economic and environmental benefits to the area.”

So we’d love to know your thoughts.

Will this tower be a much needed iconic part of Manchesters sky line? Like the Beetham Tower? Or maybe it will just be ‘another tower’.

Let us know your thoughts for a chance to be featured!

Email [email protected] for a chance to be featured.

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