Category: 1001 Buildings To See Before You Die

I’ve had a bit of a Tom day. First of all I went to the gym to do my routine to get my ankle more mobile. Jimmy has upped the routine and it seems to be working. When I started a few weeks ago I’d limp out of the gym after doing it, now I’m walking quite normally. I’ve also checked with Jimmy that when one of the machines says ‘HIGH HEART RATE’ and flashes a red heart at me, this is a good thing and I’m not about to collapse. I can now wander about for about four hours now before my foot starts to complain as well.

A funny thing did happen at the gym today. It’s one of those computerised gyms with a key you put into each machine that loads your routine onto it so you can change the seat, position of various contraptions and the weights you are using personally. Two of the machines I used were used before me by a very fit lady who must have been in her 70s at least. She has a few decades on me. In both cases I had to decrease the weights for me from the ones she had been using! 

That humiliation over I decided to go into the city centre to my favourite barbershop, BarberBarber, to get my hair cut. Johnny, the owner was in sorting out a few things before he went off for some meetings. He looked amazing….black trousers, black shirt with white clouds on, a black and white houndstooth jacket and a pair of amazing shoes with leather printed to look like black and white zebra skin. Sadly no picture.

Andy was working today. He’s cut my hair before and done it well, as has the tall guy whose name I can’t remember. But I had my hair cut by, to me, a new guy. Frank, or Francesco as his mother would know him, learned to barber in Sicily, he then took his skills to Rome and from there to London where he worked in Johnny’s barbershop just on the edge of the financial district of The City. Johnny has asked him to relocate to Manchester. Francesco has been happy to do this. In London he had to pay a small fortune for a small place, one hour’s travelling time, by Tube, from where he worked. While Manchester isn’t exactly cheap it’s a damn sight less expensive than London which is why a lot of people are relocating here. In Manchester he has a much nicer, and cheaper, apartment just beyond Manchester Arena and he can walk to work in five to ten minutes. 

Francesco said he would give me the ‘perfect’ haircut and this he did. He also persuaded me to have a cutthroat shave. First thing, I’d sacrificed a shower and shave to get to the gym where I could shower afterwards. Lazy Tom! My shave was all quite a performance involving varoius oils and unguents being rubbed into my face, two applications of hot soap being shaved off, hot perfumed towels being applied, eyebrows being shaped. It was all very relaxing and I think I may have booked a week in Taormina, Sicily, Frencesco’s home town. Worse things could have happened I’m sure.

I then went to the Google store in King Street to book a seminar on writing for a blog and I’m having a one on one about the use of social media to promote business. If it doesn’t work for this, it will be useful in my work life. And I got some tickets to see the production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ at the Royal Exchange. My ankle problem meant that I didn’t see any of their autumn season but they have extended their amazingly popular Christmas treat for a couple of weeks. Something else to look forward to.

Walking back to the tram station in St. Peter’s Square took me through Albert Square past the Town Hall. It’s one of Manchester’s most important and iconic buildings. When people want to show something is coming from Manchester, this Grade 1 listed, Victorian Gothic building is usually what they show. It’s where we welcome important visitors to the city, where we come together to celebrate achievements and where we come together in times of sadness like the Ariana Grande concert atrocity last May. 

Across this building was a banner proclaiming ‘We’ll be back in 2024’ for, yesterday, it closed. This 140 year old building is in dire need of attention. The public areas are, as always, beautiful, but the heating system, the electrics (electricity hadn’t been invented when this building was opened) need upgrading badly. And behind the magnificent façades and the wonderful artworks, the fabric of the building is crumbling. So it will close for six years and hundreds of millions of £ will be spent on bringing it up to standard for the next 150 years. If they do it correctly, being Grade 1 listed, one of the most important buildings in the country, we won’t notice a thing has changed inside when they reopen. The skills that will be developed here restoring this much loved Manchester building, will be transferred to the restoration of the Houses of Parliament in London, a building that, ironically, Manchester Town Hall has often stood in for in movies and TV shows. 

On Sunday I went on a camera safari across Manchester. I sort of ended up guiding the group through the city centre and got so engrossed in that and talking to people about the history of the route that me actually taking pictures stopped.



I did take some at the the beginning of the safari while we were at the market outside the  John Ryland’s Library and the extraordinary Armani store building in Spinninfields. Winston, who is the face of Bib & Tucker Neckerchiefs, was there doing a meet and greet with all the people at the market. He’s a popular fixture at this market.



Here are some of the pictures I took while I was still taking pictures. All those glass buildings in that part of the city reflect each other and the sky and make taking interesting pictures easy even for a ‘point and press’ photographer like me.




This is Lincoln House across the street from the John Rylands Library where Brazennose Street meets Deansgate. Nearby is Lincoln Square with its statue of the American president in the middle, hence the name. I noticed that hoardings have been put around it and the building next to it. The reason is, in spite of it only being built in the 1980s, it is doomed. There was a fashion for mirror glass buildings in the late 80s inspired partially by the opening credits of a programme called ‘Dallas’ where mirror glassed skyscrapers reflected the wide Texan skies. This was one of Manchester’s attempts to copy the style.





Neither of the doomed buildings is in a bad way but they do occupy a prime site across the street from Manchester’s very successful business district of Spinningfields. This building will extend the business district down Brazennose Street and capitalise on the area’s success. This is what it will look like. It looks a bit like No.1 St. Peter’s Square but in red stone to reflect the buildings in this part of town including the John Ryland’s that it will face. Do the hoardings going up tell us demolition is imminent?



Contrary to expectations you would be surprised at the amount of natural diversity that lives in our big cities. Even in a huge city like intensely urban Manchester, you are never far from the natural world. I’d go so far as to say that we have a very rich diversity of nature in Manchester that might even be greater than the countryside that surrounds us. We have parks and our homes are surrounded by gardens that link the various suburbs. We don’t pour chemicals onto our gardens and are usually delighted when we discover that we are sharing our city with all manner of creatures. Except the ones that like to share or eat our houses. So the creatures and plants find the city a good place to live. Little persecution, good food supply and so on. On the farms they have to put up with being hunted down and chemical warfare.

I spotted these under some of those pine trees by the marina in New Islington. I’m pretty sure that they are Shaggy Ink Caps. I went through a phrase when I was a kid when I liked to spot and learn the names of trees, plants, birds and the like. While I’m not so focussed on doing that as an adult (how sad!), I can still remember their names. I’m good to take on a country walk but have been known to make up a name for something I didn’t know!  An aunt still thinks she spotted a very rare Greater Spotted Bog Wader. hehehe

These got their names because as the caps of the mushrooms deteriorate they rot down to a black goo that used to used as ink. And when they just open the caps do look shaggy. Hence the name. I believe that they edible but I have never tried them. If they don’t come covered in plastic for a major supermarket I don’t go near them. Wise words from Tom…




Here’s my official ‘Dig The City’ Crew pass! It allows me to access all areas where soil needs shifting, weeds need weeding, gardens need creating and so on… Anyone got any idea as to the purpose of the little green globe?




I’m beginning to realise we packed a lot into out trip to New York. As well as visiting MOMA we went into the massive Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park and also managed to visit the Guggenheim in its extraordinary building on 5th Avenue, facing the park. And this WAS the building we visited and went into and I don’t think they have, in any way changed it! Though I read that it has been restored but kept the same.

It was designed by the celebrated American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, to house the collection of the millionaire, Solomon R. Guggenheim. It is an extraordianry building outside and in. What i likes about it was that all the paintings are exhibited on a kind of wide spiral that gently winds its way up the building. It is so designed that you pass every picture in the building on show.

The Guggenheim foundation has funded galleries all round the world. There is one in Venice in Italy and an extraordinary one in Bilbao in northern Spain and I believe another one is being built in Abu Dhabi in the Middle East.

Here is the extraordinary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. I haven’t see it but would love to go.


Not all of the buildings you have to see in New York are skyscrapers. Two are art galleries. One is MOMA Or the Museum of Modern Art to give it its Sunday name. It is on 57th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. It is considered to be one of the two greatest collections of modern art in the world. The other being Tate Modern on the south bank of the Thames in London.

This is another of one of my cheats. I have been to it and I have been inside it. But this is what happened. The gallery was just around the corner from the Hilton Hotel on 6th where we were staying. We spent an afternoon here and wonderful it was, being full of beautiful paintings you had only seen in pictures before. After we had visited New York they decided to close the building down,. I don’t actually think that had anything to do with our visit but it happened anyway. They moved the entire collection to a huge temporary gallery in Brooklyn and tore the old MOMO building down. Japanese artist, Yoshio Taniguchi, designed a new building for the site which has since been built. So I visited the institution in this exact place but not this actual building. Can I get away with that?

Click to find out more about it.

The Flatiron Building is on 5th Avenue in New York near Madison Square. It is one of the oldest skyscrapers in the city but is quite small compared to some of its taller, younger cousins in Midtown and Downtown. I guess when it was first built it would have stood out on the skyline more but, today, it gets lost among the newer skyscrapers.

It was one of the first buildings to have the two of the things that are needed for a skyscraper to be built. First it has a steel skeleton which gives it its strength. And second, it has lifts or elevators as they say in America, which means people can get up and down it easily. Without either of these developments, skyscrapers would be impossible. It was opened in 1909 (in my book) or 1902 (on wikipedia)!!

It is called the Flatiron Building because, looked at from above, it has that shape as it had to be squeezed onto the tiny triangular plot. It is in a style called Beaux Arts which means that the limestone exterior is elaborately decorated from the ground right to the top of the building where only the New York pigeons can appreciate the effort that has been put into it. The narrowness of the building gives the illusion that it is much taller than it actually is. I think it’s a lovely building.

Do the usual…..

We stayed at the Hilton Hotel on 6th Avenue and just along from us was the Rockefeller Center. We thought it was just the are deco skyscraper and one or two satellite buildings, but we discovered that it consisted of 19 different buildings ranging from the 1930s to the 1970s, but most people go to see the main buildings at its centre. It was developed by millionaire, John D. Rockefeller Jr..

When we were there was the best time to see it. There was the ice rink set up in front of the tallest building and we saw the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, which, given we were weeks from 9 11 was covered in red, white and blue lights. It was wonderful to watch the people skating in front of the tree. It looked like a scene from a movie set in New York. The only thing was they didn’t have the warmed, spiced wine we English expect at Christmas. If I move to New York, I will introduce it to them.

We also went to a great steak restaurant in one of the newer buildings in the Rockefeller Center on 6th Avenue. The restaurant was called Del Frisco’s and it was a great meal. My father went to compliment the greeter on the quality of the meal and the attentiveness of the staff and say how important it was that the meal was good because of the birthday boys. She brought the manager and he took us round the restaurant. Turns out it was one of Mayor Guiliani’s favourite restaurants and he took us in to a private dining room where he liked to eat quietly away from the crowds. We visited the wine cellar which was in the old bank vault. the manager was explaining about the wines they had and he said they had a brandy that retailed at $800 a shot! Dad asked if it was really that good that it would be worth 100 times a normal shot. The manager then poured all the adults a shot so they could try! But being 13 I got passed by! Dad later said it was nice but not $800 nice!

Have a click…..

Here’s a link to the restaurant for the next time you are in New York. It’s worth it. Tell the manager Tom sent you.

A few blocks away from the Empire State Building on 42nd Street is the Chrysler Building. It was built in the art deco style as the New York HQ of the Chrysler Corporation but they never actually occupied it. It has lots of decorative motifs that are taken from the cars of the time it was built. It was finished in 1930 and, for a year, it was the tallest building in the world. For my money it is the most beautiful of New York’s skyscrapers. I love the spire , especially when it is lit up at night. I was disappointed that I couldn’t get up it.

We were all admiring the Chrysler Building from the sidewalk by the New York Public Library when we became aware of a scuffle behind us. My uncle turned round and was horrified to find Andrew and Paul having a thump fight outside the library on 42nd Street! Andrew had been irritating Paul since the top of the Empire State and once he gets into that mood with his brother there is only one outcome! Paul marched off down 42nd Street saying he was going back to the airport! Without his passport and ticket? I think not! hehe

We had to separate for the afternoon but all was forgiven when we went out for their birthday dinner and a fabulous steak restaurant on 6th Avenue.

Have a click…..


I thought this weekend would be an appropriate weekend to post about the buildings in New York City that you have to see before you die. We went to New York just after New Year in 2002. It was a big family trip to celebrate the birthdays of two of my cousins. Andrew was 21 and Paul was 18 in the same year so we wanted to make a special event of this. Andrew knew about it in July but was sworn to secrecy until after Paul’s birthday on September 6th. We were amazed that he could keep it to himself as he and his brother are notorious in our family for not getting on sometimes and , in the past, nothing would have delighted him more than to spoil a surprise for his brother. Maybe the potential anger of the whole family kept his mouth firmly closed. We gave Paul his present that day. It was a beautifully wrapped box and inside there was a BIG APPLE! He didn’t get it for a while. When he did he was delighted. 5 days later we were wondering if we could go at all. 

By Christmas things had calmed down and as Mayor Giuliani said New York needed visitors so we went. My mother said those shops needed her support. She may not have kick started the American economy but she surly left a smile of the faces of the managers of Bloomingdale’s and SAKS 5th Avenue. We had Christmas at home, drove to Cornwall on Boxing day for a few days, back to Manchester for New Year and then flew out to New York on the 2nd. We stayed at the Hilton on 6th Avenue near the Rockefeller Center and my room had a view of Central Park. I loved being in New York. The buildings, the people, the stores. They still had the Christmas decorations up and we were delighted and amazed to find that they were all in scale with the buildings. Huge candy canes hanging off buildings, Christmas baubles the size of small houses scattered on 6th Avenue, a Christmas Wreath over the intersection near Tiffany’s the size of the intersection itself.

It was a bitter sweet trip. We were enjoying New York and ourselves but there were reminders of 9 11everywhere. In Grand Central Station there was a wall of pictures put up by relatives of people who had disappeared, they were still hoping they would be found but common sense would say no. We went to Ground Zero to leave some flowers on behalf of the aunt of a friend of my dad’s. She lives in Sligo in Ireland and her brother, a NYPD policeman, had disappeared that day. We took the subway but could not get down to the tip of the island because the line ran under the World Trade Centre site. We went as far as we could then tried to walk the rest of the way. We got a bit lost and ended up in a car park under one of the roads leading to the Brooklyn Bridge. In it we found a car with a NYPD sticker on it telling people not to move it. It was covered in thick dust and people had left little messages in the dust. It must have belonged to someone who went to work in the World Trade Centre and hadn’t come back. It still upsets me now. We left the flowers for the policeman we had never met. We were amazed that there was nothing there at Ground Zero, By January, every scrap of those huge buildings has been moved leaving 2 enormous holes in the ground.

One of the positive things we did was go up the Empire State Building. It was opened in 1931 and was built in the Art Deco style. For a long time it was the tallest building in the world until it was superseded by the World Trade Centre. It has, of course, regained its title of the tallest building in New York in the most appalling circumstances. I believe it will lose its title again soon to the Freedom Tower being built near the ground Zero site. The Empire State Building is an iconic building and one of the most recognisable silhouettes on the New York skyline.  The light the top up for special occasions, after 9 11 it was lit in royal purple and gold to say thank you to the Queen for ordering the playing of the American national anthem in Buckingham Palace Yard.