St Peter’s Square designs go on show

The five shortlisted designs for the improvement of St Peter's Square in central Manchester were unveiled to a muted response at a private viewing last night.

The exhibition opened to the public this morning in the former visitor information centre behind the Town Hall next to the square and lasts until Saturday.

The identities of the five architects have been kept a secret in the displays and even the judges will not be told, in order to prevent preconceptions influencing their decision. The designs are simply labeled 002, 004, 016, 027 and 032. The invited guests at last night's low-key reception for stakeholders and media muttered comments such as "much of a much-ness" and "little to choose between them". One distinguished office agent simply couldn't wait for the work to take place, commenting: "It doesn't really matter which one, just pick a winner and get it done."

The brief for a largely pedestrianised square – all traffic apart from trams will be diverted in future – inevitably makes the designs similar riffs on expanses of paving, planting and seating. At first glance the few distinguishing features are limited to a sculpture here and novel choice of tree type there. The choice and cost of materials could arguably the biggest distinguishing factor, the paving is such a large feature in every sense.

St PeterNew structures are limited throughout the designs with some having no new buildings and others suggesting larger shelters for tram passengers or dodging the Manchester rain.

Arguably the biggest change will be closing the extension of Moseley Street and the resultant enlargement of the pedestrian area: a given set by the planners and not the work of the architects.

The brief includes the creation of a contemporary memorial to the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. The cenotaph will not be affected by the redesign of the square and will remain in its current position.

The winning design team will be selected later this summer and a separate artist appointed to work alongside them to create the Peterloo memorial.

The £20m contract is scheduled to start on site in early 2011 and last 12 months. The contest is part of the civic complex renewal programme that includes refurbishment of the Town Hall Extension and Central Library.

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The Council is currently running (over the next few weeks)an open exhibition/consultation event on all of the projects associated with the redevelopment of this area – daily changing exhibitions in the ex-Information Centre. However, these have been poorly advertised and so far turnout has been extremely low. It is a shame that such high profile projects for the city of Manchester have not been more widely publicised, because the residents of Manchester should be encouraged to get involved. A lot of work very good work has been progressed by the different designers, but the Council has poorly organised the consultation, which appears to be more of a ‘tick-box’ exercise than anything more meaningful.

By Rachel

I intend to go and review the designs this week, however can anyone indicate where the traffic will be diverted? In particular the bus traffic…? As the existing bus stop in St Peter’s Square is one of the main stops in the city centre.

By Hayley

I think the phrase municipal comes to mind… The excuse of lack of budget should not restrict the designs from being fresh, imaginative and exciting.

By Brian Holden

3 days consultation seems woefully inadequate given the importance of St Peters Square in the cityscape.

By Emma

Just been for a mooch at the exhibition. The designs all look very similar – a few nice touches here and there. Quite how paving over the little green space that there is fits with the city’s desire to be a green city, I’m not sure. Great that it will become a traffic free area – other than the trams of course

By Moocher

So the council offer the plebs 3 days – 3 DAYS! – to have the opportunity on the redesign of one of the key bits of the city centre. That’s shocking. I’ve been a supporter of Howard and his mob for some time now, but is this a sign that they are losing touch with reality? Smacks of arrogance to me. Still it’s part of the English disease really, couldn’t see our teutonic cousins managing a process such as this quite as dismally.

By Consultationmya##e

It can’t be any worse than Piccadilly ‘Gardens’ can it?

By St Peter

As part of a seperate consultation exercise all buses are to be diverted along Portland Street, therefore all designs for the square seem to pre-determine the outcome of this seperate consultation which clearly does support accusations of arrogance and ‘box-ticking’ from the council.

By UnaPlanner

Its shocking poor, and different how to the triangle and piccadilly gardens ? lacks imagination -this is a landmark space it needs something amazing

By Angelinacancan

Seen it – The odd one out (aka 016) proposed to move the tram stop away from the Cenotaph. The rest haven’t dealt with the eyesore.

By John

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