Designs for the latest attempt to overhaul Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens are being worked up, which according to the landscape architect behind the project will bring out the gardens’ “unique character”.
Manchester City Council announced yesterday LDA Design had been appointed to deliver concepts for the long-awaited improvements to Piccadilly Gardens, potentially including the partial demolition of the Tadao Ando wall and looking at the entrance routes into the site.
Place North West spoke to Mark Graham, director of LDA Design, who is leading on the project.
According to Graham, designs are “in the early stages”, and will look to respond to the challenges presented by the busy area of city centre public realm “both physical and social”.
He said LDA was looking at “a holistic approach” to responding to some of the anti-social issues, and that the concepts would “retain the character of the place and help it function more successfully”.
Graham told Place North West: “Piccadilly Gardens has to wear many hats; functioning as a public square, a civic space, and somewhere casually to have lunch.
“We’re looking at its role in the city, complementing Albert Square and St Peter’s Square nearby. Piccadilly Gardens has a unique character compared to them, and needs to be a place for people to have fun.”
Compared to previous proposals, a larger footprint for improvements works is being proposed. The area set to be regenerated has expanded to include Piccadilly to the north of the gardens, Parker Street to the south and Mosley Street to the west.
Graham said: “I was keen that the brief covered the approaches to Piccadilly Gardens, considering the constrained access, as well as the perception of the space being one of the key issues. It’s important to look beyond the red line.”
The council has been liaising with the police to ensure the works on the gardens reduce instances of anti-social behaviour.
“We need to ensure the environment responds to social issues, which are not helped by the various hiding spaces,” Graham said. “The design should respond to how people actually use the Gardens, in a positive way.”
The unpopular Tadao Ando wall is often pointed to as one of these ‘hiding spaces’, and could be facing partial-demolition as part of the proposals, as Graham said the wall “is getting in the way of how space functions completely.”
In contrast, one benefit of the wall is its use as a visual and sound barrier between the gardens and the tram and bus interchange.
“We’re looking at how the transport interchange is integrated into the garden, a creation of a green wall could be part of that solution,” Graham said. “There are lot of competing requirements; trams, buses, pedestrians, so it’s about how to knit all of that into the area.”
LDA was the landscape architect behind an earlier proposal from leaseholder LGIM Real Estate to regenerate Piccadilly Gardens, first proposed in 2017. The £2m overhaul was popular with the public but wasn’t progressed due to challenges around funding.
The latest designs are set to be consulted on in the spring.