[This post goes onto my blog but not out to my blog send list recipients until my email server quits intercepting my bulk posts under the suspicion that they are spam. I am sorry to say that for the time being those who want to read my posts will have to visit my blog, or get them on social media. I will see if I can send to TradArch and Pro-Urb lists without punishment. – David Brussat]
High winds in Manchester, England, whistle past the 47-story Beetham Tower, causing it to emit a low-pitched moan (said to be in the key of “B below middle C”). “What’s the loud noise in the city centre? The Beetham Tower whistle, of course” is how the Manchester Evening News reported this recurrent civic horror, apparently caused by the wind “playing” a steel blade at the building’s crest, described by Wikipedia as “a façade overrun accentuating [the tower’s] slim form.”
Here is the YouTube video of the singing skyscraper.
When the Beetham opened in 2006, one critic said it “torpedoed” any hope of Manchester garnering coveted status as a UNESCO World Heritage City. The building’s designer, SimpsonHaugh & Partners, cites its form as a symbol of Manchester’s post-industrial revival. When the building proved also to have a set of pipes that might turn green the gills of the singer Tom Jones (Sir Thomas is still belting it out at 75), SH&P’s Ian Simpson, who lives in a Beetham penthouse, apologized to the city.
When’s the last time an architect apologized? (The profession’s credo is “Never Apologize, Always Explain.”)
The building’s whistle may be obnoxious but modern architecture lays claim to utility as its credo. The noise is clearly intended as a warning siren to alert Mancunians of high winds afoot. Rather than criticize it, the city should reject Ian Simpson’s apology.
Perhaps the Beetham Tower also utilises the wind-tunnel effect to create a stiff breeze to maintain pedestrian verticality and locomotion. The wind at their backs! How useful as they stroll downtown Manchester, ever at risk of fainting from the ugliness of the Beetham Choir! Modernism’s utility to the rescue!
Hat-tips to Cliff Vanover and Jules Pitt for sending this story to me and to the TradArch list.