Landezine
International
Landscape
Award
Sadler’s Yard, Manchester, UK

Problem

The Co‑operative movement was born in Manchester 150 years ago and is an institution ingrained in the fabric and well‑being of the City. Change, however, was needed to redevelop its estate within the northern portion of the city centre. In a joint venture with Hermes Real Estate and Manchester City Council, The Co-operative Group committed to a £800m regeneration plan, called NOMA, that supported the City’s core ambitions for economic growth. The challenge was to create the conditions necessary to drive transformation and attract significant private sector investment.

Solution

Creation of a high quality and unique urban realm is one of NOMA’s core development objectives. With ERDF support, a new public square and streetscape enhancements were introduced as a vital first step within a wider public realm masterplan that underpins the redevelopment strategy for the historic Estate.

Within this neglected area, a dense conglomeration of buildings had accumulated over decades, ranging from decorative listed heritage assets to pragmatic and eclectic intrusions. Levelling a degraded building was a bold intervention that enabled hidden spaces and cramped back alleys to be converted into a substantial new square. Reducing the ground level by some 3m revealed the basement of buildings flanking the square, creating opportunities for shops, cafes and restaurants that will activate and support establishment of this mixed-use urban neighbourhood.

The proposals open up the Estate, creating wider routes across the city centre whilst revealing the glorious facades of historic buildings. These historic buildings are a crucial part of the Co-operative’s legacy; part of the area’s past and future story.

Process

A deep understanding of the area’s inherent characteristics was captured through a detailed analysis of archaeology and built heritage; topography; circulation and transport; microclimate and the relationships between the site and its wider surroundings. This informed a robust public realm masterplan of a form, scale and character that encourages people to gather, dwell and use the streets and spaces. We promoted the idea of a flexible event space that could easily adapt to future uses and had the potential to bring culture and entertainment into the NOMA masterplan’s core.

Design

The square’s design draws on the Estate’s architectural heritage, in anticipation of the forthcoming creative communities that will be attracted to this district. The vision was to invoke the civic confidence of financial and trading organisations historically located in this area. Warm and contrasting tones of diamond-shaped inlaid stone paving emulate the opulence of marble floors found in old banks, and the NOMA logo draws inspiration from a traditional bank safe.

Motifs from the rich collection of building across the Estate are reflected through the landscape. Intricate patterning is embedded within the signage, street furniture and gobo lighting. Beautiful materials, craftsmanship and dedicated attention to detail combine to create an artisan character.

The suite of complementary bespoke elements include black granite seating with bronze inlays, bronze and blackened steel cycle stands, handrails with integral lighting, and bollards with verdigris insets. Most impressive of all are the lighting totems, formed from a steel core with bronze panels. The design is an abstract of the fragile vein structure of a leaf; a delicate natural form working in unison with the colossal strength of the manufactured steel frame. The totems reflect NOMA as a place that creatively balances the new hard urban built environment with its many green spaces.

Social, Environmental and Spatial Facts

Numerous festivals, events and pop-up markets have formed part of an active community collaboration programme that also resulted in a public competition to name the square; drawing on historic connections to England’s first Balloonist, James Sadler, who made a pioneering ascent from what is now Balloon Street.

Artisan crafting and creative collaboration throughout the Sadler’s Yard project culminated in the realisation of the Pilcrow; a pub built FOR the people BY the people. Every element of the building fabric, its furniture and fittings – from bar taps to dart boards; barrels to bar stools – was made by members of the public through a series of workshops with master craftsmen.

Confidence in the area’s potential has led to restoration of surrounding listed buildings, including the distinctive Grade II Hanover Building, and attracted new uses. PLANT, a 300m sq gallery, arts and workshop space, recently opened in the ground floor of the Redfern Building. A home for meetings, art exhibitions, lectures and a little department store, PLANT also offers space for community building projects that will contribute to the NOMA development. This initiative further expands the area’s unique artisan identity, creating a place of special character that people are embracing as their own.

Entrant office name: Planit-IE LLP
Role of the entrant in the project: Lead Consultant and Landscape Architect
Website: www.planit-ie.com
Other design firms involved:
Chris Brammall, Sculptural and Architectural Metalworker
United Creatives, Graphic Designers
OH OK LTD!, Community engagement through making
Project location: Sadler’s Yard, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AB
Design year: 2014
Year Built: 2015

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