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Patterns and Puzzles in St Peter's Square - an Enigma of the Town Hall Exte...

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Manchester Central Library

St Peters Square

Manchester

M2 5PD

United Kingdom

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Manchester’s Town Hall Extension represents, it is thought, an attempt by E. Vincent Harris to ease the transition in architectural style from the neo-Gothic Town Hall to the neo-classical Central Library. On the building’s southern gable, Harris included two tall tracery windows, one facing onto Mount Street, the other into St. Peter’s Square. The windows have been much-photographed from afar, but since they start thirty feet above the heads of passers-by, one aspect of their design may have gone unnoticed in the 80 years since they were carved.

The tracery windows are not the identical twins that they appear to be. The dominant design motif is ‘interlace’, a weaving pattern that comes with traditional lay-out rules, but on the St. Peter’s Square window something unexpected happened – a slip of the chisel perhaps, or a slip of the pen? The explanation is the subject of the lecture. Comparison will be made with artefacts from Hiberno-Saxon art and other medieval contexts.

The asymmetry between the two windows in the Town Hall Extension will be seen to balance a subtle asymmetry in the tracery work of SimpsonHaughs’s recent Two St. Peter’s Square. Taken together, the gables in St. Peter’s Square offer Manchester’s citizens the chance to take visual and mental pleasure in intricate architectural creations that at present may seem over their heads.

Speaker: Dr. Michael Brennan

Affiliated to the Trinity Irish Art Research Centre in Trinity College, Dublin, Mike Brennan did his dissertation at Bangor University on an art-and-mathematics topic: ‘The Structure of Interlace in Britain and Ireland in the early medieval period AD600–1200’. His background is in mathematics education at Waterford Institute of Technology, but his family background is in monumental sculpture. He lived in Manchester from 1968 to 1976.
He publishes articles on the problems confronted by medieval manuscript artists, metalworkers and stone carvers in executing interlace, the weave pattern, and he is currently writing a book about the history and structure of the motif.

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Manchester Central Library

St Peters Square

Manchester

M2 5PD

United Kingdom

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