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Mapping Manchester's Cold War Tunnels

  • Manchester Central Library Manchester, M2 United Kingdom (map)

Join the Manchester Modernist Society and Modernist Magazine in the fourth of a short season of events at Manchester’s Central Library.

This talk focuses on a massive tunnel space built in the 1950s under Manchester city centre and maps out its meanings through different periods of time and perspectives: official secrecy, technical obscurity of service space, securitised critical infrastructure, and conspiratorial obsessions.

The tunnel complex, known by its code-name ‘Guardian’, was conceived as a site of atomic-bomb resistant telecommunication equipment and given the large scale expenditure to construct it 30 metres beneath city streets it clearly had strategic importance to the British Government in terms of advancing its Cold War doctrine. The talk draws upon primary archival research, historical news reporting and first-hand accounts of GPO / BT staff. At the architectural scale, it will consider the make-up of the underground facilities, then look at the geographical configuration of access points across the city before speculating on the larger role of this piece of infrastructure for national and potentially international telecommunications.

The speaker, Martin Dodge is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Manchester and his research focuses primarily on the politics of mapping technologies, new modes of geographic visualisation, and understanding of urban infrastructures. He co-curated the Infra_MANC exhibition on post-war urban infrastructure held in the CUBE Gallery in spring 2012.

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