Caruso St John Architects

Location: Manchester, UK
Client: Manchester City Council
Project Status: Built

This is a project developed in collaboration with the artist Jeremy Deller, for a permanent memorial to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo massacre; a significant event in Manchester’s political history, where government troops charged into a crowd of 60,000 peaceful protesters demanding parliamentary reform.

The memorial celebrates the struggle for representation against state repression. It has a shallow pyramidal form, with steps rising to a flat top that rises above head height from ground level. The shape is reminiscent of a burial mound, with a stepped form that allows multiple people to stand or sit together – a civic space in the best tradition of Victorian architecture.

The memorial will be built in stone, using a variety of different minerals chosen for their colour and texture. It will incorporate granites, sandstones, slates and marbles from all regions of the UK. The bright range of colours – along with the names, emblems and texts incised into the surface of the stones – refer to the bold, celebratory banner graphics calling for social reform, traditionally held up by protesters at gatherings and marches.

The steps of the memorial will be constructed with solid pieces of masonry, with fine joints. The decoration on the stones will be achieved using different techniques: On the vertical faces of the steps, the names of the villages and towns in Greater Manchester, from which protesters gathered in 1819, will be hand-carved into the stone. On the horizontal faces, the emblems will be made with inset stone – metal or resin – to give a flush surface. The design on the top of the memorial will mark other events around the world, where peaceful protests have also been violently broken up by the state.