Manchester’s Piccadilly railway station is set to become one of the city’s development hotspots with a comprehensive overhaul put forward by the city council ahead of the arrival of HS2. Here, Hala Al-Abweh, architecture and urbanism student at the University of Manchester, shares her vision for the area with an increased focus on public realm.
While the city council has put forward its strategic regeneration framework for the area, drawn up by Bennetts Associates, Al-Abweh’s proposals are built around key issues: building a community; enhancing the station’s economic offering; making Manchester a beacon of sustainability; and overhauling the station itself to make it not only efficient but also a vibrant environment.
Extracts from the vision follow below
This area of Manchester has a high economic value and huge historical importance; certain structures in this site are over 200 years old and unfortunately have suffered from neglect.
The area is rundown and is lifeless. It is home to many depots, warehouses, and large parking structures adding nothing of value to this prime city centre location. Local business, residents, and tourists are deterred to live or work in this area. This gives us the opportunity to give life back to this once thriving location.
The project will serve as a prime location for residential, cultural, commercial and recreational spaces in the centre of Manchester and it will become a new destination for shopping, tourism and a vibrant place to live and work.
From the analysis of the area, it was clear that it is in need of a public space. The goal is to combine main pillars of urban sustainability; community, context, economy, and environment in one inclusive public space. There is also the need to identify who will use the space: commuters who require a fast and easily accessible approach; or the families around the area who need public and recreational spaces; and the tourists who want to experiment and explore the culture of Manchester.
With the amount of neglect this area has suffered, there is no surprise at the lack of a community.
Satisfying the community’s need is a main priority if we are to address this issue, attract people and local businesses, and bring this area of Manchester back to its former glory.
A new park connects with a promenade running along the reclaimed River Medlock. The once-industrial area is transformed into a family friendly and safe environment.
A cultural commercial spine runs through the site ending with a cultural commercial district and market place encouraging local businesses, providing a new destination for the people to relax, shop, and embrace the culture.
Following Manchester City Council’s vision for a sustainable city, a green approach was adopted throughout the site. Green buildings techniques are enforced wherever possible, such as green roofs and the use reclaimed building materials. The reclamation of the polluted River Medlock and creating open green spaces provides an attractive aspect to the site, but also supports the environmentally led design.
A car free neighbourhood not only reduces congestion but reduces noise and air pollution in the site, while utilizing the vast area of the new terminal’s roof for water collection and solar energy to support this extensive site is also proposed.
London Road is a major route running through the heart of Manchester and area is currently very congested and enclosed. It doesn’t allow for a direct flow to the station nor provide an attractive entrance to the city, while trams emerge from small openings and can’t be seen clearly, making it quite dangerous for pedestrians.
The current concourse covers the grade two-listed train shed and doesn’t allow for a direct view of this historic station. The flow to get to the platforms from Fairfield Street, containing the drop off zone, the tram stop, and the bus stop, is needlessly complex.
Store Street located underneath Piccadilly station is very dark, neglected and part of its warehouses on either side are currently being used as parking spaces.
The design suggests restoring part of Store Street warehouses and utilizing the arches as active shop fronts on the main road, vastly improving the street appeal. The current high arch structure of Store Street allowed for openings and flow of people. Construction of stairs within the warehouses allows for direct access to the upper plaza as well as allowing for natural light to shine through.
A bridge-like structure connecting the platforms contains the main vertical circulation of the station and allows for direct access to the platforms.
The location of the plaza is currently a vacant land used as a parking space. It is isolated from the surroundings with no amenities nearby making it unsafe and a purposeless area.
The plan proposes to convert this area to an attractive well-connected plaza. A border of buildings containing the plaza provide new amenities, shops, restaurants giving this area life.
Due to the slope of the site, gradual steps were created to address the height difference. A staircase directly connects this plaza to the grade two-listed building.
A new park is provided for the existing residential area acting as a buffer from the train station but still allows for direct access.
The plan suggests the use of the undercroft of both the HS2 terminal and Piccadilly station as retail space on two levels. The second level will be accessible within the shop or unit itself with independent staircase or lifts depending on the final design of the unit. The second level could be used as a storage space or an additional retail floor.
With this site being such a prime location in the heart of Manchester, there was a real focus on getting the right Socio-economic balance for this project to be classified as a success.
This vision aimed to create a liveable, vibrant, pleasant environment for the community and create an attractive entrance to Manchester. The impact of this project will clearly be felt further afield and a comprehensive understanding of the personalities of the areas bordering the site had to be achieved.