Piccadilly Gardens ‘needs to be space to have fun’

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

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.”

Piccadilly Gardens Cgi Pavilion

Earlier proposals for Piccadilly Gardens included the demolition and rebuilding of the Pavilion

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.

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People have been ‘ having fun’ there for years.

By Manc Dandy

Most dangerous place in Europe

By Floyd

That wall needs to come down in its entirety. It is an eyesore and effectively divides Piccadilly Gardens in two. Always hated it. Bring some colour back to the garden.

By A Cynical

dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear….and timber cladding as well….
who appoints these people and who in the planning department agrees this is worthwhile…I think we know the answer to that

By anonymous

I’m a foreigner living in Manchester, when my sister came from abroad she really liked Manchester until we went to Picadilly Gardens, she said it looks rough and scary and I couldn’t agree more.

By Anonymous

Come on Manchester council and the companies involved you have been dilly dallying for years over this area while all around Manchester spaces are being renovated this needs to be done NOW as it’s mainly the first place you see when arriving looking forward to you’re visiting a great city which can offer so much but you think oh god it’s a disgrace dirty scruffy full of litter dodgy dealings etc etc etc etc you think I’ll have a coffee after my journey I’ll go to neros but as you get closer you start to change you’re mind it looks like a derelict bunker outside a meeting place for the well I couldn’t possibly say so you carry on and get out quickly mind the broken paths the dirty puddles the ploughed fields oh sorry I mean the grassed area the drinking cider groups oops got carried away a bit there also the play area for children with the dirty smelly Astro turf full with mud from the field oh I mean grass never mind a coffee a stiff drink is needed once you get out forget about the wasteland oops sorry I mean the gardens it should be a place to be proud of not ashamed so get you’re act to get it revived and make it well again NOW NOW NOW NOW

By Chris

Give over Floyd

By Anonymous

The single most unpleasant and toxic element of the current ‘gardens’ is and always has been that horrible bus loop outside Morrison’s and the Travelodge. Here you have the intersection of hundreds of daily bus movements with many thousands of daily pedestrian movements, ugly and obsolete street furniture, broken and sodden paving, a complete absence of aesthetic and different user groups angrily getting in the way of each other. Truly grim.

By Pic Gardens Hater

Get rid of the buses completely.

By Katie

Well done Wall will have pull down and stop drugs, I never like wall when I firsh time wl open I was shocked.

By James marland

Combine Chorlton St and Piccadilly bus stations underground in Piccadilly, move the trams towards Piccadilly Tower, then you could have a decent sized public square and gardens.

By Allotmentlad

This part of the city centre has always been seedy and depressing, not a welcoming area for visitors.

By D. Mirra

@floyd You need to calm down hun

By DANGER

Just look at Picc Gardens from above – there’s only about a third of it which is actually available for use by people. Concrete walls, No.1 Piccadilly shouldn’t have been built, bus stops and bus loops. The tram tracks themselves cover a large area.

By Anon

Crime central

By Anonymous

The current design is not brilliant but the real problem is that the council and the police seem to have abandoned the area allowing criminal and anti social behaviour to take hold. The authorities can spend £2 million or £20 million redesigning the area but unless the social issues are resolved the money will be wasted.

By Monty

Manchesters very own Platzspitz.

By Liver fella

this obsession with these Green walls and tacky lean to’s. We are British, we are the best gardeners in the world. Can we just have some roses please.

By Elephant

The walls are the best thing about the space – at least they serve a clear purpose. Stop pretending with a park in this location, make it a proper square and put effort into a real green space in an area that isn’t a natural cut through.

By BillyboyCauseDaveWasBanned

I think the poor quality environment, lack of clear purpose and overall intimidating grim car-crash of a disaster zone is the sodden spawn of a city that has been “regenerated” with no principles. All for the developer at the expense of the inhabitant. Fail to see how the latest tweaks demonstrates any change of heart.

By Soulless Citeh

They need to close the needle exchnage/druggie drop-in centre that’s 200 yards away then.

I can see why they put it there – it’s where the smackheads and spiceheads hang out after all – but it’s been a disaster for the area.

You want to be doing everythingyou can things that clear beggars and druggies and their dealers away from the entrance to our city, not encouraging them to hang around there.

It’s recently gone from a disgrace to positively feeling dangerous. I commute in every day by train and I’ve started avoiding the area by taking the tram from Market Street when leaving at night and the free bus in in the morning. No-one wants to walk though that.

Landscaping will make no difference. The problem is the people.

By Andy

Why is there grass in a highly used public square?
There’s no grass in Albert Square outside the Town Hall, or St Peter’s Square outside the Library, or in Exchange Square outside Corn Exchange or in St Annes Square or in the new plans for Stevenson Square in NQ.
Please just remove the grass, and give us a civic plaza that looks tidy and robust.

By Edge

This is a tricky one.

I think the days of Pic Gardens being a park are gone, no matter how many roses you plant Elephant. It’s too busy and hectic now, and this will only get worse.

As someone pointed out, it’s not a massive area for pedestrians and it’s too busy for cyclists, although provision of some cycle infrastructure may help.

I think it might be better to simplify the situation and get rid of the walls/barriers. I agree that No1 Picadilly should have never been built as it could be transformed into a fantastic square. Some of the buildings which surround Pic Gardens are fantastic and would benefit greatly from a good scrub and careful lighting.

By L

Ahhh, good old Piccadilly Gardens…the perennial problem…the most anti-social social space in the north.

To get this area ‘right’ you’d need a world-beating urban design solution that would address all the competing factors.

Where’s Kayla Bibby…?

By North by North-West

L You make good points but it is hectic because the original gardens were taken away. The garden used to be sedate and now they are just a meeting point for all sorts. Open space attracts gangs, paths do not. I hate Piccadilly Gardens to the point where I actually feel angry when I see it, with those who have destroyed it.

By Elephant

An arboretum (with differing ornamental trees) within a piazza style development is possible ideal solution here, rather than the water-logged lawn. The way the statues have been plonked without relation on the edge of the current gardens is unfitting – these should have pride of place within. I neither like nor dislike the pavilion and does at least screen off the transport loop. The office block shouldn’t have been built, with hindsight.

By SW