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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A common complaint is the lack of high quality open space, particularly green open space in Manchester City Centre. Whilst the city does boast many well designed spaces there appears to be a general feeling that there is not nearly enough - especially given the dense and intensive way the city is developing.

The problem is exacerbated by the characteristically narrower streets in Manchester and the tightly packed central core. Added to this the extremely poor design solution afforded to Piccadilly Gardens and planning blunders such as the Arndale Centre extension which has grossly extended a much loathed shopping centre rather than persuing a streets-and-squares strategy.







Here is the council's response to the problem, prompted by a question posed by a member of the public on their website.......

I think we all agree that open space in a city is very important. The problem is that the tight grain of the City's historic street and development pattern coupled with high land values makes it impossible for the City Council to create new areas of open space in isolation.

However, particularly through our regeneration initiatives, we take every opportunity to add to open space provision in the City Centre and this has made a huge contribution to Manchester's renaissance.. The works in the City Centre Renewal Area, particularly Exchange Square and Cathedral Gardens, the Piccadilly Regeneration Initiative, Spinningfields, Great Northern and Castlefield have added considerably to open space provision in the City Centre. We will aim to ensure that future regeneration strategies at Southern Gateway and within the 'Arc of Opportunity' as part of Manchester: Knowledge Capital, make similar contributions.

In addition to this we have upgraded existing schemes and, through pedestrianisation, created areas such as St.Ann's Square, Albert Square, the Peace Gardens, Market St, King St, and Brazennose St. We also have a programme to upgrade existing green areas of the City Centre at Parsonage Gardens, Sackville Park and St. Johns Gardens. We take every opportunity to plant new street trees in the City Centre and attempt to accommodate them in new developments and to create walkways along our rivers and canals.

There are a number of large parks which are within easy walking/ travelling distance of the City Centre such as Hulme Park, Phillips Park, Alexandra Park, and Heaton Park, all of which provide quality resources for City Centre residents.

I think that the way we use the available space in our city is very important. We are attempting to reduce the amount of vehicles in the City Centre by encouraging modal shift to other forms of transport such as buses, walking, cycling and of course, Metrolink. If we are successful in these initiatives we should have a win/win outcome - a thriving, vibrant city but with more of our street space available for use as social space.

27 January 2005





What are people's ideas and aspirations in relation to this problem? Personally I would have liked the council, for once to take an intelligent, long term and strategic view and create a large edge-of-city-centre park like they have at Eastside in Birmingham. Unfortunately with projects like Eastgate set to send land values in Picc Basin skyrocketing and the failure of the council to undertake any kind of long term planning for the area, this opportunity may have passed us by forever. It would also be nice if they took more care with planning decisions which has meant our largest and most important piece of open space - Piccadilly Gardens is aflicted by the worst design solution in the city. Ill conceived and poorly excecuted. Clearly there is plenty of hard, careful work to be done.


So! Thoughts, ideas, opportunities please! We all want an uplifting, liveable city to be proud of. Urban design considerations and particularly the issue of quality open spaces urgently needs to be addressed if Manchester is to continue to attract people and prosper.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I think the point about St Peter's square is a good one. Actually it is a really sizeable space. I like the gardens there even if they are under used but the area is not really seen as anywhere to linger probably because there is no substantial unbroken open space, and its seen more as a through route to Piccadilly Gardens. Its a nice space and it works well but I'd hesitate to call it a "square". It could definitely be enhanced and particularly if they encouraged restaurant / bar use on ground floor units there.

Here are a couple of other, recent contributions on other threads......

GAVIN:

I have posted on this issue a couple of times. I say we need to develop several new public squares/piazza's/green spaces.

I would suggest the following:

1. Corporation st from Market Street to Urbis
2. China town car park
3. Canal St to be properly pedestrainised
4. Northern 1/4 NCP to be flattened and new development/ open sapce to replace that car park and the opposing ground level car park.
5. Improvements to the riverside along the Irwell so its possible to walk its entire city centre length
6. Stevenson Square Northern 1/4 to be remodelled.
I'm sure there are others too. Maybe it could have its own thread???

I do like the pedestrainised aspects of Spinningfields though and the footplate of Beetham is actually smaller than the old building. If that were the case for all new builds, we would gradually have a nicer, open yet denser city centre.


ROLYBLING
I totally agree, there is a lack of green spaces in the centre of the city but....don't forget, the Greengate plans include a "Central Park" which apparently will be quite a size.Hopefully it will reddress the balance as there is little green open spaces in Central Manchester
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
There are two things here. 1. The principle of building on a valued open space such as Piccadilly Gardnes and 2. The design of the building that we ended up with (and its relationship to the space and other buildings i.e. urban design).

I myself am not 100% sure I am supportive of the principle of building anything on our biggest and most important open space (Piccadilly Gardens) however if it was a clever design, in terms of its form, materials, massing and so on it could have actually enhanced the space which I would have been all in favour of. As it was, what we ended up with was so hideously out of context we ended up in a lose-lose situation. A poor building on a precious piece of green space. Project Unity is a different kettle of fish as it has been carefully masterplanned and the council are encouraging a pedestrian strategy surrounding enhanced open spaces rather than bits and pieces of unused, poorly defined bits of spare land as we tend to see on campus at present.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I think that's Lincoln Square Accura. Its a great space however could do with some quality landscaping (rather than the concrete flags it has at present) and because of the importance of the built environment to the success of an open space, certainly some of the buildings surrounding it could definitiely be improved.


On of my favourite hidden spaces / gardens is St John's Gardens near Granada Studios. Few people seem to know about it, its well looked after and is always so peaceful - and just a short walk from Deansgate too.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record... unfortunately Picc Gardens being one of our biggest spaces is also one of the worst. Politically it might be embarrassing for the council who have spent so much money on it in recent years but I think simply because of the amount of people that pass through the area it is absolutely vital that they continue to invest and improve the space as well as engaging building and land owners to radically re/develop sites that form a backdrop to the square. Such a shame the most prominent backdrops in the Plaza and 1 Picc Gardens are ALSO two of the very worst buildings in the city.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
When your walking around in manchester there are just too many unnecessary junctions. Remove them and you have more time to enjoy your walk and admire the buildings.
Walk up Princess st from Whitworth st to Deansgate on the canal st side. Count how many times you cross tiny roads and think about how many of those roads perform no function whatsoever because they are all parallel to the next one 10m up the road. Ok so the odd van may need to park there to deliver something but removing nearly all of those junctions would make such a differene to the urban environment.
It would be a start. And then we should pedestrainise China Town sqaure and Corporation st but there we are...
That's a really good point. If you notice, that's exactly what they've done on London Road. Not only have they got rid of the central reservation to vastly widen the pavement on the right hand side, heading into town there but they've also brought the road junctions up to pavement level (all be it differentiated it with dark brick) but it makes one hell of a difference to the walk up to Picc Gardens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
You could have the best designed space in the world here but it still wouldn't be totally successful or particular popular if the surrounding buildings are of poor quality.

Just look at it. The definition of the space is not reinforced by the surrounding buildings and what buildings do overlook the space are, in the main, of poor quality - in particular Bruntwood's Alberton House and Manchester House. You also have Albert Bridge House aligned at a pecular side-on angle to the space. All this, combined with the poor landscaping treatment and the poor linkages with Calatrava's bridge make for a very poor urban space..... an urban space which shares many of the same flaws with Piccadilly Gardens.

In exactly the same way that buildings are enhanced by their landscaping; open spaces are enhanced by the quality of the built environment that form the backdrop. This is why this particular space and Piccadilly Gardens will NEVER be successful unless there is some radical remodelling of certain buildings in the area - and of course much better landscaping.
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Cheers for the pic highriser. Yes its a nicely landscaped piece of open land but again, as were talking about a space in a very urban setting it is imperative that the built environment that frames it is of high quality - complementing and enhancing the space.

Unfortunately this space is bordered on one side by one of the most cheapest and ugliest looking apartment blocks I've ever seen. I believe its called Angel Meadows. Truly a symphony of ugliness and the thing unfortunatley only serves to compromise the experience of what is otherwise a nice and very welcome urban park.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 · (Edited)
Right, time to bring this thread back to life. Since Manchester is probably undergoing an unprecedented amount of development it is vitally important that the spaces and streets we act out our every day lives are positive, attractive and uplifting places to be.


In that respect I thought id like to draw attention to an example from across the Pennines in Sheffield which to my eyes is the perfect example of how to create a major new public space. Its the perfect marriage of excellent landscaping and well considered new buildings that manage to enclose and define the space properly. Compare and contrast with Piccadilly Gardens.


I dont know who designed the Sheffield gardens but I do know that the office buildings in the background were designed by the same firm of architects who failed so badly with an equivalent building in Manchester - 1 Piccadilly Gardens. Cladding aside, the Sheffield buildings are vastly superior in respect to their relationship with the space they help define. It actually looks like architect and landscape architect worked together rather than on different planets here in Manchester






















  • Look at the solid and substantial appearance of the stonework within the gardens.
  • Look at the clever use of water throughout the gardens.
  • Look at how the areas of grass are used by people to sit on rather than to walk over and churned up.
  • Look at the well defined pedestrian routes.
  • Look at the central water feature and how it acts as a focal point rather than some kind of after thought.
  • Look at the lush planting
  • Look at surrounding buildings and how they help define and enhance the space and contrast with Piccadilly Gardens where they only serve to confuse - relating poorly to both the space they border and to each other.






It has to be said though that a new space that is every bit as good as Sheffields Peace Gardens is our very own Cathedral Gardens as it succeeds in the very ways that I've listed above. This state of affairs begs 2 questions....

1. How did we therefore manage to **** Piccadilly Gardens - own most important, well known and most visted space so badly
2. How can it be improved?

The answer to 1 is can only be answered by the council officials.
I have a few suggestions for 2:

  • If it is possible - fill in and pedestrianise the section of roadway that leads off Portland St to serve Oldham St and Lever St (pedestrianising the section of the roads up to Dale St).
  • Following said pedestrianisation, extend the gardens closer to the building line
  • Raise the lawns and emulate the substantial style of stonework and soft planting as per Peace Gardens
  • Create more intelligent pedestrian routeways through the gardens
  • Bring forward the development of better considered new buildings (or improvments to existing buildings) in the gardens to better define the space, giving it a better sense of enclosure and a better sense of place. In other words improve the urban design.
  • Restrict ground floor use to pavement cafes and food or lesiure outlets only to give the gardens a better defined purpose and profile.
  • Provide more articulation of the landscape i.e. different levels and gradients
  • Given the characteristics of the area as a major transport interchange, perhaps the best and most radical solution would be to remove the lawns all together and put some high quality paving down and resolve to create a proper, quality new green urban oasis somewhere else in the city centre.
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Anyhow: get the garden right and whether the surrounding building "relate" becomes academic. Those Sheffield buildings are not in harmony with each other, and whilst there's harmony between stone buildings and stone walling & steps, it isn't crucial.
I fundamentally disagree. Im not really talking about cladding when I talk about the surrounding buildings, Im talking about form, massing and proportion and how well they enclose and help define the space. A space is defined by the structures that surround it. You can have the best designed garden in the world but if the buildings that form the backdrop to the space are inappropriate the space simply will not be as successful. Replace those office blocks in the background of those pics with Piccadilly Plaza and immediately the Peace Gardens would be a much, much less successful space.
 

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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
Replace those office blocks in the background of those pics with Piccadilly Plaza and immediately the Peace Gardens would be a much, much less successful space
I realise this might have been a (deliberately) provocative comment for you Farsight.

I must also add that if you replace those nicely proportioned office blocks in the Sheffield pics with that messy jumble of narrow buildings directly opposite Piccadilly Plaza - all different heights and widths and all too lowrise for the sheer size of Piccadilly Gardens - you would similarly compromise the Peace Gardens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
I beg to differ. IMHO the buildings aren't what you see. What you see is the gardens.
I disagree. Sat in the gardens your peripheral vision and what you know to be there through experience would comprise what buildings surround and define the space. As you say...
It's a jungle thing, buried deep in our reptile hindbrain
We like to feel safe in public spaces. People need clearly defined spaces and routeways. Its about proportion, legibility and context. Its psychology. Its urban design.




But what's really important is having buildings abutting the lush interesting gardens to enclose them. Roads between gardens and buildings is what really screws up your relating.
Agreed. But you cannot properly enclose and define a space with, say a 30 storey needle like tower, a big gap then a big slab of a building suspended 20 metres above the ground (something akin to, say, Picc Plaza). Neither can you enclose and define a large space by building a row of 3 storey cottages. Its about proportion and whats appropriate for the space. Buildings matter and are as important when designing successful spaces, as the design of the space itself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 · (Edited)
Of course buildings matter. But "defining a space" is much less important than the design of the gardens themselves.
But don't you see? The space that you create - green or otherwise - is literally defined by the gap between the buildings. The space and the built environment are mutually dependent and, in my opinion, equally as important.

Think of your favourite public square or public garden. What characteristics mark it out from any other space? The chances are that what is generally accepted to be the most popular and successful public space will be a perfect marriage of landscaping and building.

The picture you're posted above is a case in point. You could have the best landscaping treatment in the world but unless it is surrounded by well proportioned, attractive buildings that lend the space that all important sense of place and definition it will simply not be as successful as it could be.

Yes, I agree the landscaping and design of the space is important but equally as important are the buildings that surround it because as I say the two things are mutually dependent.
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 ·
I like how this excellent image shows exactly how Beetham (even though it is a good distance from Hulme) still manages to enhance the space by providing a better sense of 'enclosure' to it. As the Southern Gateway is developed, Beetham will be largely obscured from view but the effect will be the same. Better definition and enclosure of this space will enhance its sense of place, enhance its feeling of security and enhance its profile as a significant and attractive urban green space.

Can you imagine NY's central park without the skyscraper backdrop? It would feel like a completely different place. On a smaller scale, this is the effect Beetham and eventually the Southern Gateway / Central Spine developments will have on Hulme Park.

 

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Discussion Starter · #59 ·
Read my posts above and the point I have made to you many times over now. Its a combination of the two - landscaping and the built environment combine to determine the success of an open space.

Get them both right and you have an uplifting place to be; Get them both wrong and you get Piccadilly Gardens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #63 ·
Let me rephrase the point I've been making in case you missed it:

The council don't own the buildings and they don't have the money to do anything about them. So they can't get them right. Whilst they might encourage change, this would take time, so in the meantime should they plant screening trees? Like on your Hulme Park picture? Should they try to do what they can with the landscaping? Should they try to get it right? Or should they do nothing to the flat bleak concrete wasteland they created out of Piccadilly Gardens because surrounding buildings don't "properly define the space" ?
No I totally agree - the council should do what they feasibly can to improve it, although it might raise a few issues.

They would need to overcome the political embarrassment of changing something they spend 12 million quid getting so badly wrong. I agree that they should nevertheless swallow their pride and do it - should funds be identified that can in some significant way enhance the landscaping treatment.

Regarding the built environment they can put into effect a long term strategy to deal with this. They have power and influence over strategic issues - including design. There is nothing stopping them putting into place, alongside the private sector and the general public a long term aspirational vision for the gardens and the wider Piccadilly area - what they should be aesthetically, economically and functionally. With this in place they are in a position to steer development along these lines. But first they need to actually have a vision - something to aim for and focus minds otherwise we will continue to see peacemeal, poor quality, unco-ordinated development. Im not sure the Piccadilly Partnership has such a long term strategic vision - particularly for the gardens themselves.
 

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Discussion Starter · #70 ·
High time this thread was resurrected.

From the Metrolink thread, Liam's post.....

I think the quality of tarmac/paving on roads and pavements is vitally important to the appearance of a city. Let's be honest, the road surfaces in Manchester City Centre are mostly appalling. The rough, patched up roads look very bad in the rain.

I couldn't agree more. This is an extension of previous points made about the complete obsolecense of those tiny roads you see where you have 1m of useless and poorly surfaced raised pavement area, double yellow lines either side and little more than a car's width of roadway.

Why not extend the shared roadway / pavement homezone concept...? Why do we put up with those awful tarmaced pavements? Why not follow the continental model of paving which utilitses attractive quasi-ceramic or coloured concrete tiles which have the advantage of being easily pulled up and repositioned for the inevitable sub-surface utility works and are which are one hell of a lot more attractive solution than relaid tarmac.

Small details such as these make such big difference and in turn make the city a more liveable place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #81 ·
PORTLAND STREET



At present one of the poorer quality streets in the city centre but what a lot of wasted space! Two lanes either side with a central reservation. Madness. Is there a sound reason why it cannot be reduced to one lane in each direction like Deansgate with an expanded tree-lined pavement area on each side?

There is also a rather nasty kink in the road outside the Portland Tower. I would like to see Portland Tower and the CIS building built out to re-establish the building line in line with the Brittania Hotel and the Princess Hotel. There are some brilliant buildings on Portland Street (and some terrible ones) but the street has plenty of potential and could be improved wholesale by sorting out the messy public realm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #83 ·
Irwell City Park

Further to Potato Man's post.

Project inches closer to unlocking Irwell City Park

Major plans to unlock the Irwell have reached an exciting phase as The Big Lottery Fund has granted funding for Salford in partnership with Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company, Manchester City Council and Trafford MBC £250,000 to develop a business plan in the second phase of the process.

The announcement follows an assessment from the Big Lottery Fund officers who visited the site in May and agreed that the project captured their imagination, with the potential to transform the waterway and its surroundings into a vibrant and attractive area.

Having submitted a joint bid for £25 million, the local authorities see the vision as an opportunity to restore the Irwell to the heart of the community by rejuvenating this major urban waterway and creating a continuous, walkable river frontage, with pleasant public spaces and a new landmark bridge.

The project is one of 23 UK initiatives that have been shortlisted. A committee of experts in the field of architecture, regeneration and the environment will make a decision on grants to be awarded in September 2007.

Councillor Jim Battle, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "This is a great example of co-operation between Manchester, Salford and Trafford. We are delighted that this exciting project to unlock the potential of the Irwell riverside has been shortlisted. Its regeneration will complement the internationally-significant development of Spinningfields and benefit residents of both cities."

Commenting on the announcement, Leader of Salford City Council, Cllr John Merry said: "The plans for Irwell City Park have immense cultural and historical value as well as massive economic potential. This is an extremely important project and a means of bringing the river back to the heart of the community."

Executive Councillor for Planning Property and Prosperity at Trafford MBC, Cllr Stephanie Poole added: "I'm delighted funding has been granted to develop the business plan for this exciting project. The Irwell City Park Project will create a fantastic Landmark for Greater Manchester that will encourage investment and add real value to our plans to continue to transform our waterfront and Trafford Park. It will allow businesses, residents and visitors alike to enjoy the waterway and its surrounding areas.

Chris Farrow, Chief Executive, Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company said: "The River Irwell is one of Central Salford’s most significant assets and its revitalisation is key to our regeneration framework for the area. For too long we have turned our back on the river and ignored its potential. This project is part of our vision to celebrate and enhance the city’s natural assets to bring economic prosperity and an improved environment for local communities."

Commenting on the shortlist process, George Fergusson PPRIBA, Living Landmarks committee member said: "It is a real challenge having to choose between so many varied and imaginative applications. It often felt like trying to judge between drums and violins, but there was an impressive level of agreement amongst a well-spread committee informed by a thorough assessment process."

Media contact
Roger Williams, tel: 0161 234 3275
 
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