The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

The Trafford Centre: Not your average shopping experience

To celebrate Intu Trafford Centre’s 18th birthday, we explore the inspiration behind its creation

By

Manchester’s Intu Trafford Centre has a hell of a lot to offer. From the largest food court in Europe, to the busiest cinema in the UK (and not to mention over 200 shops) Manchester’s largest shopping centre certainly has it all. But what exactly is it that separates this centre from the rest?

The answer is simple, architecture. Opened in 1998, you might expect a fairly modern approach to this ultimate shopping experience. Originally owned by The Peel Group, it’s chairman, John Whittaker had other plans for the project. Whittaker convinced architects to create a one-of-a-kind centre, inspired by a collection of eras and styles.

He said: “When we first started the architects said, “you shouldn’t be doing all this and giving it all the razzmatazz and showbiz, leave that to the retailers. Make it plain, make it clinical, make it white and hospitalised and let them do the work”. So then we put in the paintings, we put in the real gold leaf, we put artefacts everywhere, paintings. It is the people’s palace. It is something to attract shoppers … to give them the Dallas effect.”

The vast shopping centre spans over two floors and involved an innovative design that ensures an equal number of entrances on both floors to avoid upper-floor retailers from missing out on custom. There is also a third floor which has a 23-screen ODEON cinema, a laser quest, and a mini-golf experience.

The extra large food court is known as The Orient, and is designed to look like a 1930’s cruise ship. This gigantic eating area also includes street-like areas inspired by countries from around the world including New Orleans and Egypt, among many others. It is not every shopping centre that has a miniature set of the Sphinx.

Crossing the threshold into the Great Hall is like stepping onto the Titanic. A stunning addition to the centre in 2007, and costing a whopping £26 million, the Great Hall is truly sensational. The extension is encased in marble imported from China and is thought to home to the largest chandelier in the world. You cannot help but imagine Leo waiting for you on the grand marble staircase, hand outstretched, donned in his dashing tux. A girl can dream.

The Main Dome is claimed to be larger than that of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. And, given its grandeur – that would not be surprising. Donned in gold detailing and adorned with semi-nude paintings and sculptures, there is no other entrance to a Selfridge’s store quite like it.

Walking through the Trafford Centre you are truly transported to a different age. Each step is a different country, a different period, a different inspiration. The Peel Group set out to give an alternative shopping experience to its patrons, and let’s face it; you don’t see many 20th Century Art Deco shopping centres now do you?