Manchester Urbis Urbis Andrew Paul Brooks

The Urbis museum, is a phenomenally unique glass structure based in Cathedral Gardens, Manchester. Designed by Ian Simpson, it was built in 2002 and houses 5 floors of exhibitions, a cafe, bar and shop.

The exhibitions run from 3 – 5 months and, best of all, the Urbis is completely free.

Living close by, I have visited the Urbis several times. Most recently was my visit just yesterday.The five exhibitions there on at the moment (June 2009) are ‘Videogame Nation,’ ‘Reality Hack, Hidden Manchester,’ ‘State of the Art: New York’ and ‘Haunted Manchester’.

As this is fundamentally intended as a review on the museum itself, as opposed to individual exhibitions. But as the exhibitions were so crucial to my own enjoyment of the day that I will give brief mention to them.

Videogame Nation is a hugely interactive exhibition charting the progress of video games. The younger people will love this and as well as informative it’s hugely fun!

My personal favourite, ‘Reality Hack: Hidden Manchester’ is an amazing display of photography by Andrew Paul Brooks. It is very ‘alternative’ in its styling and the pictures are taken from areas around Manchester that are often unseen or overlooked, such as sewers. The photos are breathtakingly beautiful and offer a whole new dimension to the city.

‘State of the Art: New York,’ I am told (though I did not have time to go and look) incorporates projects around the city too. I should explore!

‘Haunted Manchester’ was an amazing insight into Manchester’s supposedly haunted buildings.

As I said, I don’t want to give too much information on the exhibitions themselves, as I wish to focus on the museum.

The building is open, modern, contemporary and has a unique feel to it. It makes stepping inside very welcoming. Getting between the exhibitions is made simple by the fact that each one is on a separate floor. The layout of each echibition is carefully thought out, as was clear to see by the fact that, even on a busy day, everyone is able to get around and see everything without any trouble.

The staff were very helpful, one member actually stopping to tell me a little more about one of the pictures in the ‘Hidden Manchester’ exhibition. That was something very pleasant and rather unexpected on a busy Saturday. It also goes to show that they do their reading on the exhibition! Always a good sign! I find nothing quite as irritating as going into a museum to see an exhibition and finding that the staff know nothing about it! I am not expecting genius staff to know everything about anything. But I do think that for exhibitions coming up in a museum you work in, you should do your reading.

The final point: value for money. It is completely free to go into the Urbis and see the exhibitions. Nobody can harp at value like that, can they? However, the cost of food and drink in the cafe and bar downstairs (named ‘Social’) is not cheap! I paid almost 2 for a bottle of water. However, located in central Manchester, you will not go short of places to eat and drink.

All in all, well worth the trip. And if you can get there before 9th July 2009, you will catch the ‘Hidden Manchester’ exhibition which I massively recommend.