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Peter House reflects Manchester's reviving fortunes

Peter House, a distinguished Manchester building that recently changed hands, is more than just another office block. The 12-storey building is a landmark of the International Modern style and part of the city’s mixed architectural heritage.

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Peter House, a distinguished Manchester building that recently changed hands, is more than just another office block. The 12-storey building is a landmark of the International Modern style and part of the city’s mixed architectural heritage.

Found on a sweeping corner of Oxford and Lower Mosley Streets, Peter House, a distinguished building that is part of Manchester’s spectacular range of architectural styles. Taking its name from the adjacent public square in the city centre, Peter House is an early example of the International Modern in Britain, after the style had finally leaped the Channel after the Second World War.

Stemming from France, Germany, and Holland in the 1920s and based on the works of such major figures as Le Corbusier, Philip Johnson, Richard Neutra, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the style dominated the international scene until the 1970s. Built in 1958 on St Peter’s Square in Manchester’s established business district, Peter House replaced buildings damaged during the Blitz.

The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture describes International Modern as ‘characterised by asymmetrical composition, unrelievedly cubic general shapes, an absence of mouldings, large windows often in horizontal bands, and a predilection for white rendering.’  

The sturdy front extensions don’t damage that grace at all, but add almost an element of humour, looking, as they do, like two chunky thighs

Peter House has a subtly unique take on the style. Paying homage to the nearby Central Library, a classical style building from 1930, the building is actually symmetrical in shape with a strong street presence. The Good, the Standard and the Ugly column from Manchester Confidential, which reflects on the city’s very mixed architectural legacy, described Peter House as looking like:

‘The bridge of a ship from a great ocean liner, it’s got power and grace, a rich functional dignity. At the same time, the curve echoes the street pattern here … bending back like a bow tensed along the arrow of Lower Mosley Street and Mosley Street. The sturdy front extensions don’t damage that grace at all, but add almost an element of humour, looking, as they do, like two chunky thighs.’

Found in 1900, Ansell and Bailey, one of the United Kingdom’s oldest architectural firms, designed Peter House. Mark Herbert, a partner at the firm, says, 'We are proud of our long heritage which includes some exceptional buildings of which this is undoubtedly one.'

He adds that, ‘I think a particular consideration by the architects of the time was to use Portland stone, say as opposed to concrete or glass, to match the external surface of the Central Library’.

Herbert adds that although now specialising in healthcare, laboratory and education projects, Ansell and Bailey designed many churches and more commercial buildings in the period of the construction of Peter House. Many of these buildings benefited from good material selection as well as elegant proportion.

Manchester’s recovery

Peter House was part of the ‘UK Value 2’ fund of PATRIZIA. The 94,654 sq ft building was acquired in 2014 for £23.7 million and extensively refurbished. It sold recently to BP Pension Fund for £45.1 million.

Kim Sardar, Fund Management Director at PATRIZIA, says the price reflected the upgrade undertaken to achieve an institutional grade asset, as well as improvements in Manchester generally.

‘That was part of our approach,’ Kim comments. ‘We acquired Peter House because it was a landmark asset in an improving area of Manchester that was going to be the beneficiary of investment. The quality of the refurbishment is reflected in the transaction we’ve been able to achieve on behalf of our clients.

The area surrounding Peter House has been subject to a comprehensive renovation and repositioning following local investment of more than £430 million. The area became a hotspot for development, with One and Two St Peter’s Square opening their doors in the five years of PATRIZIA’s ownership of Peter House. The redevelopment of Peter Square, including the restoration of Central Library and attached Library Walk link, also significantly increased the area’s attractiveness.

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