Beyond the Building: Beetham Tower

Name: Beetham Tower

Location: Manchester


The facts: Built in 2004 at a cost of £150 million, Beetham Tower is 169m high and is one of the thinnest skyscrapers in the world with a height to width ratio of 10:1 on the east–west façade. A mixed-use development, there is a four-metre cantilever which marks the transition between hotel and residential use on the north façade; a blade structure on the south side of the building acts as a façade overrun, which accentuates its slim form and doubles as a lightning rod. Approximately 57,000 tonnes of concrete and 6,000 glass panes for the curtain-wall structure were required.

Any interesting details: it was described by the Financial Times as “the UK’s first proper skyscraper outside London”. Until 2018, it was the tallest building in Manchester and outside London in the United Kingdom. However, it lost that claim to fame in November 2018 when it was surpassed by the South Tower at Deansgate Square, which reaches 201m in height. Apparently Beetham Tower is visible from 10 English counties on a clear day (although given that it’s Manchester and let’s face it, we don’t get too many clear days, we must take this claim on trust…)

Controversy: Where do we start? Beetham Tower is one of the most Marmite buildings in the world. It was awarded the best tall building in the world in 2007 by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, but equally many people in the architectural world hate it and question its dominance over the Manchester skyline. It even has its own parody Twitter account, @AngryBeetham, which is probably held in more affection by locals that the building itself.

Anything unusual: Beetham Tower is renowned for an eerie hum – some describe it as a howl – heard during windy weather, which emanates from the roof’s glass blade. The humming has been heard from more than 300m away, and the noise has even interrupted filming of Coronation Street. Multiple works to eradicate the hum have taken place over the years, with foam pads installed in 2006, aluminium nosing in 2007 and further work done in 2010, but all attempts to eradicate the noise permanently have failed.

Do say: “The top floor penthouse offers amazing views of Greater Manchester, the Cheshire Plain, the Pennines and even Snowdonia.”

Don’t say: “Sorry mate, can’t hear you over that weird humming noise.”


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