The Sharp Project is Manchester's flagship digital production complex
In the beginning was the word.
And the word was Sharp.
And the word ‘Sharp’ was everywhere. On every television in every living room, on every shiny new microwave, on every calculator in every O-level maths exam, emblazoned on the chest of every Manchester United player since 1983, there it was: ‘Sharp’. An instantly recognisable symbol of a hi-tech future, a window to a brave new world, a little piece of Tokyo distributed around the globe from Newton Heath. And the word Sharp became unequivocally, inescapably synonymous with two things: technology and Manchester.
Fast forward to 2006, and Sharp Electronics has left the building. The 200,000 square foot site has been acquired by Manchester City Council, who recognise the urgent need to address the literal and figurative gaping-hole that has been left behind; the need in many ways to replace ‘like with like’; to create a new icon for East Manchester, somehow engrained in its history and rooted in its culture, but that could also catalyse its future growth. This is the challenge they put to Mr. Madchester, Keith Jobling, and his creative partner in The Boot Room agency, Ken Campbell: create a trailblazing flagship for a post-Party People generation that would scream ‘technology’ and ‘Manchester’ every bit as much as Sharp did.
And enter stage left: Sue Woodward OBE, former Managing Director of ITV Granada and Manchester’s Creative Media Champion. Armed only with a hard-hat and working out of a portakabin in the car-park, she joined forces with Keith, Ken and lead architect Alistair Weir to oversee and implement the design and build from scratch; securing funds, generating profile and recruiting like-minded thinkers – and future tenants – along the way.
Enter stage right: Malcolm Garrett, design guru, to create an iconographic brand and visual identity for the project; stylising the site footprint as a logo and – with a typical stroke of genius – bringing the brand to three-dimensional life as an interactive way-finder through the building, carrying its distinctive colours and textures throughout the interior design.
Officially launched in 2011, The Sharp Project ‘walks the talk’. Cutting-edge, swift in its ascendancy and always fleet-of-foot, and ready for the next move, it has become synonymous with creativity, innovative thinking and astute business sense. It has its own signature style, is designed with precision and exact in its terms, operating just a notch above the rest of the pack; unafraid of new territories, edgy, determined and with a little bit of Mancunian grit, turning risk into opportunity with an unfaltering confidence in its own strategic vision.
There is never a dull moment.
The Sharp Project – Philosophy
Like many things in Manchester, The Sharp Project owes much of its spiritual and philosophical naissance to the legendary broadcaster, entrepreneur and creative champion, Tony Wilson. In June 2008, ‘The Tony Wilson Experience’, a 24 hour non-stop series of live sessions with some of the biggest names from the screenwriting, broadcasting, design, film and the music industry, was held at Manchester Urbis in his memory.Billed as ‘the longest ever intelligent conversation’, the event was designed to engage and inspire young, talented people with an interest in the creative arts. Rose Marley, now CEO of SharpFutures, was instrumental in planning and delivering the event and Sue Woodward was one of the speakers. They instantly recognised a kindred spirit in each other, a personal commitment to making a difference and, above all, little time for defeatism, empty words or messing about.
That ‘can do’ attitude has since become central to the project’s on-going development and success, creating a culture of self-motivation, drive and energy, an ethos of creativity and invention, and a core philosophy of getting things done, even if that means doing things a bit differently…..
This is a section taken from ‘The Sharp Project – The Story So Far…’ by Clare Devaney – please get in touch if you’d like to read the full document
Susan Woodward OBE, founding director of The Space and Sharp Projects and Creative Media Champion for the City of Manchester, explains how re-designing urban environments sparks dynamism and connectivity at The RSA, January 2015
The Sharp Project
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