Suspended spaces

Last month I contributed a post to the cities@manchester blog which explored the ‘suspended spaces’ that exist amidst the urban bustle of Manchester city centre. During my four years living in Manchester I became increasingly interested in – and often frustrated by – the temporary car parks, abandoned buildings, stalled construction projects and boarded-up voids that pepper an otherwise growing, resurgent cityscape. These suspended spaces, as I decided to call them, have a variety of origins – from the vagaries of the post-recession housing and credit markets to the never-realised grand plans of the city council. They are sometimes host to innovative and unexpected uses, providing a free backdrop for bandshoots or a place to store stuffed animals. Some suspended spaces are well known – indeed unmissable – such as the giant crater of Origin, while some are a little more off the beaten track, such as the Kensington gap (and its resident blue tit).

My coverage of the suspended spaces in Manchester was by no means exhaustive and I invited people to contribute to my map, which is open for collaboration by anyone with a Google account. At first: radio silence. Then: a welcome update from Parkstarter, a Manchester-based initiative to reclaim poorly used urban spaces in the city. They recently transformed the temporary car park on the former Dobbins site on Oldham Street into a day-long popup park – complete with real grass. A fitting example of the opportunities presented by suspended spaces, and the way in which these are often missed.