Hidden in the gut of Manchester city center, just outside Piccadilly station and overlooking the Rochdale Canal, is a concrete box on stilts.
It is a strange building believed to date back to the 1960s and fits in with the brutalist architecture that was popular at the time.
For decades it was tabled up, its story not told.
And since the former Manchester Met University’s Aytoun Street campus was earmarked for remodeling, it could have been torn down and lost forever.
Fortunately, developers Capital & Centric and HBD liked its whimsy and decided to keep the building for community use and host pop-up food and beverage operators.
It currently hosts Vietnamese specialists Banh Vi.
And so it is that Peter Wright, who used to live in the concrete box as a child, points out restaurant explaining how there is now a bar and a stove where he used to watch TV in the late 70s and early 80s.
Where there are now rows of trendy tables and chairs were the bedrooms that belonged to his parents, Iris and Stan Wright, his sisters Hazel and Janice and foster brother Lee.
When Peter, now 54 years old, read about the Campus development, his memories of living in ‘The Bungalow’, as it used to be known, flowed back.
It was a time when Manchester city center was in a completely different place.
Many of the old warehouses were still busy with industrial activity, the streets were filled with buses, not Metrolink trams, and Gay Village was not even on the map.
Almost everyone was visiting for work or pleasure – virtually no one was a resident.
So not only did Peter live in a strange house on stilts, he was a young boy who was allowed to roam freely on a city playground.
“We would walk around Debenhams and jump on the couches, play video games in the electrical stores, go up and down escalators,” he told MENNE
“I used to swim in the canal … and I’m still here!
“I remember when they put pike in it, I saw them all the time.”
The concrete box was originally built as the caretaker’s apartment for the then Manchester Polytechnic buildings. Peter’s father Stan got home with that job.
The family had already moved around different parts of Manchester – Peter was born in Abbey Hey when his parents had a greengrocer on Chapman Street.
He then lived for a time with an aunt in Wythenshawe and briefly in Irlam.
His mother and father both decided to move into nursing because the job generally offered accommodation as well as a salary and therefore some stability.
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“It was different, it was interesting,” Pete said.
“[The Bungalow] looked modern compared to what we had before.
“It was just excitement [when we moved in].
“As a young teenager living somewhere like this, this was my playground, other people were playing in the parks, but that was what we did, we looked in the warehouses, we walked in through the reading areas just for a bit of a curious .
“My friends from Gorton wanted to come and hang out, and they were fascinated.
“Other people thought it was different, it always felt normal to me.”
Peter, a graphic designer, now lives with his family in Salford, but looks back with love on the time he was nicknamed ‘Bungalow Boy’ because of his unusual home.
“Every single day we played football, we used one of the stilts as a goal,” he said.
“My foster brother Lee was a goalkeeper.
“My hero was Dennis Tueart, he played for City and he scored an overhead kick. In the League Cup final, my whole family was City fans.
“Sometimes in the summer we went on the roof to sunbathe, we just went up and down.”
After moving out when he left school in 1983, Peter returned to live with his mother and father in his early 20s.
He had a job in the branch of Wimpy on Market Street (where he met his future wife) and having a place to go down in the middle of the city was a big advantage for a young man who discovered Manchester’s nightlife.
“My mom and dad were quite accommodating, we would come and get a bacon -butty at 2 in the morning!” says Peter.
The flat roof of the bungalow also came in handy if Peter and his friends had forgotten a key and found themselves locked out.
“I would climb up on the roof and slide in through the kitchen window!” said Peter.
“It would save me from getting my dad.”
One time, however, the plan went back when Peter did not tell his parents that he had sneaked out to track down his then-lover Lisa Stansfield, whom he had heard performing in Manchester.
When he returned at 1am and started climbing on the roof, he was spotted and someone called the police.
Peter was red in the face and had to explain to officers that he was trying to get back in bed without being detected.
Having access to the famous names that passed Manchester quickly became one of Peter’s favorite hobbies.
“I remember that UB40 stopped their coach outside Britannia [hotel], they got a drink and a cigarette my sister was at the time, ”says Peter.
“I think it was from when I started collecting autographs.
“[The bungalow] became the perfect place, I always knew if they lived in Midland or Britannia or did audio checks on Apollo. “
“I met Bono on the stairs outside Britannia, and [comedian] Tommy Cooper.
“I’m looking at it now and it feels like another world.”
Perhaps when Peter looks back through the rose-tinted glasses, Peter now realizes that he was witnessing a period when Manchester was struggling.
Unemployment skyrocketed during the 1980s as the last remnants of the heavy industry closed in the city.
“The buildings were starting to get deserted, it was just becoming a run-down area,” he said.
“People were not interested in living here as they are now.
“I saw a lot of homelessness before my friends in the suburbs – it started to happen.
“[Manchester city centre] slowly began to decay … the workers we would see most were the prostitutes.
“I wanted to chat with some of them.
“I wanted to see people escape [from the canal] pull their pants up!
“As a 12-year-old, we had an early education.”
The new development Campus now overlooks the Gay Village, the neighborhood around Canal Street, which took shape as attitudes toward homosexuality quickly changed.
A community carved as a place where sexual preference did not need to be hidden.
Gay Village’s success in attracting people from all over the country and on to Manchester has been an important chapter in the city’s transformation.
One bed apartments in Campus start today with eye-catching £ 1,125 a month.
“My kids have grown up without knowing Manchester without cranes, obviously there was no such thing when I was here,” Peter said.
“I look really happy back at the time no one else would have that kind of experience.
“I think it has made me more curious.
“It’s part of my story, my family’s story. I’m so glad they’ve kept the building.”
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