Landscape architecture companies from as far afield as New York and Holland are still in with a chance of being selected to create world-class public spaces in six Lancashire town centres.
Balmori Associates Inc, based in New York, and Dutch firm OKRA Landscape Architects are among 26 firms to have passed the first stage of the Pennine Lancashire Squared competition to create public areas in Burnley, Accrington, Blackburn, Bacup, Clitheroe and Nelson.
Run by the Landscape Institute, the competition was commissioned by Elevate, the housing market renewal agency for East Lancashire, rebranded Pennine Lancashire.
The late music impresario Tony Wilson and his partner Yvette Livesey came up with the idea of the competition, through their work with Elevate, to attract talent to the area and ensure each town had its own outdoor area for the public to enjoy.
The team received 78 formal expressions of interest, but after a judging day last week listed 26 of the entrants. Four practices – Gillespies, Birds Portchmouth Russum, Landscape Projects and Taylor Young – made the list for two different squares.
Criteria for making the list included an understanding of the role that good design could play in improving the public squares, as well as the display of a range of appropriate expertise and clarity of proposal.
Stephen Hodder MBE, chair of the judging panel, said: "The 78 pre-qualification submissions were of a consistently high standard and comprised a number of inventive and memorable approaches to the design of the public realm in Pennine Lancashire. This made for much animated debate amongst the judging panel. I believe the shortlist for each square includes an intriguing mix of visionary teams of differing qualities, and offers exciting possibilities for the second stage of the competition."
Max Steinberg, chief executive of Elevate, said: "For Pennine Lancashire to be the focus of the biggest international competition of its kind is a fitting tribute not just to the place and the people who live here, but also to all the partners who are working hard to make this competition a success.
"Particular credit must go to Livesey Wilson Associates who dared to dream of Pennine Lancashire four years ago, and to the local authorities who are helping to make that dream a reality. We should also recognise the Herculean efforts of the competition judging panel members who scaled a veritable mountain of entries to select the very best for our shortlist."
Longlisted teams will now work to detailed site briefs in order to develop concept designs, and will also be required to participate in a creative programme of community engagement.
The Landscape Institute is running the competition with the support of RIBA. The competition received funding from the North West Development Agency and is being implemented by the Boroughs of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Ribble Valley and Rossendale, with support from Lancashire County Council. CABE Space is providing ongoing support for the development of Pennine Lancashire Squared.