"SuperCity aims to break down conventional barriers by constantly asking 'what if?', and then converts these visions into tangible realities." Will Alsop
Recent political debate around the concept of a “northern powerhouse” is nothing new. In 2004 John Prescott mooted plans to regenerate the north of England based on a similar idea. Not long afterwards, celebrated architect Will Alsop presented his radical vision for the north: a coast-to-coast SuperCity that, stretching along the M62 corridor, was 80 miles long and 15 miles wide. In this version of the north, people could live in Hull, commute to Liverpool, shop in Leeds and go out in Manchester.
It was Alsop’s vision that formed the basis for an exhibition Pollyanna produced at Manchester’s museum of urban life, Urbis. The exhibition featured artists’ commissions, talks and workshops, plus six giant architectural models – conceived by Alsop and produced by Pollyanna’s team – which showed what the buildings of the SuperCity might look like. They included a four metre-high model of Stack, a tower block built to house 5,000 people, with Alsop’s masterplans for areas within the SuperCity including a version of Bradford that had a beach outside its town hall. In keeping with an exhibition about urban life, it extended out into the city via an installation at Manchester’s busiest station, Piccadilly. Here, lightboxes displayed Alsop’s drawings of the cities along the M62 corridor.
Taken as a whole, this immersive, information-rich exhibition encouraged visitors to interrogate the concept of the SuperCity and discover how transport, food production, shopping and leisure could work in this radical version of the future. And it asked the question – one that is perhaps more pressing than ever – is the SuperCity something to be desired, or should it fill us with dread?