Phil Griffin on the architecture of the Granada building in Quay Street

It was the first commercial building to be completed in the city centre after the war. Its architect was a man called Ralph Tubbs, and he was selected by Sidney largely because he’d been impressed with his work in the Festival of Britain, because Ralph Tubbs’ designed the dome of discovery. So Ralph Tubbs was a cutting edge architect of his time, and the technique that he brought to the building, Granada House, is a… it’s a curtained wall structure which means that the walls themselves are the windows that are integral to the walls don’t actually carry the weight of the building. So essentially it’s a steel concrete framed building wrapped around with an envelope of panels, some of which are windows and some of which are wall. And the curtain wall was very much the technology, the building technology, that was emerging in the early part of the 1950s.


And they did very interesting things, Sidney being the businessman that he was. So the studio complex in the basement is integral to itself. And apocryphal or not, it was Sidney’s idea that if the company or the license failed, then he’d be able to sell the block, the tower, off as a hotel, and retain ownership of the studios. What great foresight!


But the thing the thing that marked the building out most particularly was that it was on a straight line from Deansgate, and he got the building in before the curve in the road. So what he got on either side looking north and south – from a new, quite tall block at the time, bear in mind – was the very great Granada TV. The red signage, which was a stronger icon for this city than anything else across those decades. And the water tower, which people mistakenly think was a transmitter, there was a degree of transmitting from it in the latter part of its life because that’s what satellite dishes can do and they’re attached to tall things, but no, in my view it was because when Ralph Tubbs was playing his part in the Festival of Britain on the South Bank, there was something very close to his building called the Skylon, which is a great icon of the Festival of Britain, most other things were removed, as was the Skylon, but that, I’m sure, gave Tubbs the insight into the fact that you need some verticality in the modern world, so sticking a big and somewhat unnecessary spire on the top of your new television company offices was a still really eye-catching thing to do. And so it was the combination of the red Granada sign and the water tower transmitter, the RCA transmitter, that really marked the building, and marked it from a distance, so you really got something to look up to.

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