A history of the buildings on University of Manchester campus and what makes them so iconic

No, the Ali G wasn’t named after Sacha Baron Cohen


We walk upon Samuel Alex, Ali G (Alan Gilbert) and the Whitworth on our daily commutes around the University's grounds, yet we never give much thought to the history or names behind those very buildings. Was the Ali G really named after the infamous noughties TV show 'Da Ali G Show'? (No). Who was Samuel Alexander? Did his mates call him Sam Alex, too?

So here it is: the low down on just a few of your favourite university buildings.

The Students' Union

Named after Steve Biko, the anti-apartheid activist who founded the Black consciousness movement in South Africa. Heavily influenced by Frantz Fanon, the movement's campaign focused on empowerment, with the Biko's slogan: 'Black is beautiful.'

After the new Students Union was decorated with the controversial Rudyard Kipling- one of his poems 'If' covered a wall. Soon the initiative to remove the poem took place replacing it with Maya Angelou's 'Still I rise', famously recited by Nelson Mandela.

The Whitworth Hall

Possibly UoM's most visually arresting building (I mean, we all took pictures of it when autumn turned the leaves bold red), Whitworth Hall was built to commemorate Manchester's engineer Joseph Whitworth. Most of his own wealth: made through the setting up of his own business in machinery was left to set up a national system of scholarships for engineering. The 'great window' depicts the coats of arms of the textile towns.

Samuel Alexander Building

In honour of Samuel Alexander himself, who studied Philosophy at Oxford (being one of the first Jewish members!) and later became a Philosophy Professor in Manchester. During his lifetime he was presented with a effigy of himself by the sculptor Jacob Epstein.

Alan Gilbert Building

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the perks of pulling all nighters in Ali G

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Named after a past president of the University, who while President and Vice Chancellor oversaw the merging of Victoria University and University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, in 2004. The building itself, from its furniture choices to opening hours followed the advice from the very university students.

John Owens Building

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🌷☀️ #firstdayofspring at @officialuom ☀️🌷

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After the merchant John Owens instructed for his wealth to be left for youths above the age of fourteen so as they could be educated 'free from religious tests.' This was to lead to its initial lack of students, when the college itself was opened, due to it not being able to provide Christian Ministers and with the businessmen of Manchester preferring to send there sons to join there businesses rather than pursuit of education. However within ten years the college was improving, through using German universities as models.

Zochonis Building

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Named after Sir John Basil Zochonis, and the great nephew of George Zochonis who founded PZ Cussons. The business imported West African products into the United Kingdom and exported them into Europe. One of the company's brands include the famous Imperial Leather. Sir John was also the chairman of Manchester's University Council from 1987- 1990 and the building itself was erected in honour of his donations to the city.