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Manchester's cultural corridor

Contributing to ‘sense of place’ on Oxford Road.

The challenge

Oxford Road, Manchester (Creative Commons)
Oxford Road, Manchester’s self-styled ‘cultural corridor’, is populated with a unique and eclectic mix of education providers, museums and galleries and other creative assets.

Corridor Manchester was formed in 2007, bringing together a group of public and private institutions including Manchester City Council, The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, Bruntwood, Arup and the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The partnership seeks to realise sustained economic growth and investment in times of austerity, emphasising the need to leverage the knowledge economy for the benefit of the city region as a whole.

In building upon new and existing investments within the 243 hectare Oxford Road ‘corridor’, University of Manchester researchers have provided critical scoping and evidence gathering assistance.

The impact

Oxford Road, Manchester’s self-styled ‘cultural corridor’, is populated with a unique and eclectic mix of education providers, museums and galleries and other creative assets. In contrast to this urbane backdrop, it is also one of the busiest public transport routes in Europe, with a constant stream of buses traversing the route from the edge of Rusholme's renowned ‘Curry Mile’ to the newly refurbished Manchester Central Library.

Led by Dr Andrew Karvonen, our research brings a new perspective to Corridor Manchester, augmenting the University of Manchester’s role as a large estate owner via the deployment of its research and pedagogical expertise to inform urban development. With support from a Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) grant (2011-15), Karvonen’s team fashioned several applied teaching and research projects by utilising qualitative and spatial methods to analyse the regeneration activities being undertaken on Oxford Road.

This included a specific focus on local policy-making, spatial planning, environmental governance, place making activities and locale-based innovations.

One of the key outputs was a protocol, co-authored by Karvonen and Jamie Anderson, to characterise Sense of Place (SoP) ‘before and after’ construction activities occur. This has an ongoing value, with Oxford Road undergoing a major phase of reconstruction, from summer 2015, to upgrade transportation infrastructure and the public realm.

The planned streetscape redesign, including significant pedestrianisation, will have a major influence on local and regional traffic flows, changing the everyday experience of users. In addition to the value added through building on the HEIF project, this presents a unique opportunity for additional study during a significant period of urban transformation.

The next generation of urban designers and policy makers will gain from viewing ‘research in action’, with the project as a whole exhibiting international relevance.

Our research

These combined research activities feed into a recently awarded European Commission project called Triangulum that will transform Oxford Road into a low-carbon, smart district. This aim of this five-year €25million Horizon 2020 project is to provide a real-world demonstration of a cutting-edge smart city and provide insights on how the associated technologies can be rolled out in cities around the globe.

The University of Manchester is working with 23 European partners from urban municipalities, research institutions and industry to demonstrate ‘smart green growth’ that involves the reduction of carbon emissions whilst maintaining economic growth. Other cities involved in the project include Eindhoven (Netherlands), Stavanger (Norway), Leipzig (Germany), Prague (Czech Republic) and Sabadell (Spain).

Taken together, these unique place-based activities provide an example of how University of Manchester researchers, utilising the Manchester Urban Institute network, are redefining traditional models of knowledge exchange. The collaboration with Corridor Manchester, and other stakeholders, clearly demonstrates how teaching and research activities can be combined to realise positive change within the University’s own physical environment.

The research has also translated into a second-year undergraduate course unit for Architecture and Geography students, titled ‘Infrastructure and Urban Change’. This unit uses Oxford Road as a case study to understand how infrastructure supports and shapes urban life, providing an opportunity for students to develop their research skills and apply theoretical ideas in a real world setting.

To date, over 150 students have participated in the course unit, using the Oxford Road corridor as a ‘living laboratory’.

Key people

  • Dr Andrew Karvonen (Principal investigator)
  • Sarah Butler
  • Michael Dimelow
  • Tom Hiles
  • Charles Jarvis
  • Tom Langridge
  • Laura Partridge
  • Jessica Pineda-Zumaran

Local partners

Further information