Kampus is a new vibrant urban quarter within Manchester city including approximately 350 PRS units and a series of new ground and first floor commercial units. It is an exemplary landscape architecture project that has become embedded in the urban culture and fabric of its context. Key landscape principles for the site are:

Establish a unique destination within Manchester City Centre. Varying planting typologies and furniture palettes create distinct outdoor rooms to accommodate for solo and group uses.

Maximise green infrastructure and increase biodiversity through a lush and verdant external environment. The large areas of planting increase local biodiversity and habitat. The central garden space provides an ideal canal side habitat within the city centre environment and the whole site acts as a green oasis within a hard urban environment. Bird and bat boxes are integrated into the buildings and within tree canopies

Create multifunctional and adaptable spaces, providing opportunities for users to be immersed within the verdant landscape, while servicing the ‘18hour’ economy that ground floor occupiers will require. The series of outdoor gardens are designed to adapt as the activation program evolves. Spaces cater to lose furniture with the outdoor rooms of the central garden space. Fixed furniture is used to define quieter areas away from events.

Problems & Solutions

The project brief was to create a tropical urban oasis, a first of its kind in the hard landscape of Manchester city centre. Through this brief, an aim was to reduce localised urban heating due to climate change and create a comfortable environment for visitors and residents. Extensive mature tree planting provides localised cooling through shade and reduces pollutants in the air on site. Plant selection promotes species not currently seen within the city centre, ensuring year-round interest. This resulted in several species requiring management and maintenance above what would normally be expected, such as Tree Ferns which are ‘wrapped’ in the winter to ensure survival in freezing temperatures. Because of this, Exterior Architecture is actively involved in the post-occupancy management and maintenance of the public realm at Kampus, working with the onsite management team to ensure all maintenance needs of the planting are met.

Retaining the site’s heritage through the re-use of existing elements on site and reducing construction waste, was another challenge. The main element retained is the ‘bungalow’ in the central garden space, which was transformed into an events space, hosting short term pop-up uses such as bars, restaurants, and fitness classes. The structure sits on stilts, provides shelter in rainy Manchester and is comfortably high enough to walk and sit under, allowing planting and seating opportunities to be maximised. A key to the public realm design was re-opening Little David Street which runs between two listed mill buildings and had been gated for 20+ years. To ensure the original heritage of the street was maintained the existing street cobbles were lifted, stored, tested, and washed offsite to ensure re-usability. They were then brought back to site and re-laid along the Street, which ensures the setting of the listed mill building was unharmed. External seating elements were also designed using material taken from the inside of listed mill buildings. Large timber beams from the buildings were tested to ensure their suitability for external use and then re-purposed into large seating elements integrated into the public realm design.
Another challenge was to create an adaptable space for a long-life future. The solution was to use flexible design, allowing several different events to take place at once. Activation is a key part of the scheme’s success, demonstrating that the public realm is flexible whilst still delivering a series of unique spaces that the users can enjoy when events are not taking place. The space under and around the retained bungalow can act as the event hub whilst guest and visitors can still occupy the public realm that surrounds it. This is made possible through the various seating pockets surrounded by trees in pots which add green ‘ceilings’ to the garden pockets. Events that have taken place to date include markets, exhibitions, exercise classes such as yoga or boot camp, meetings for local community groups, take over events at the bungalow such as DJ nights and festivals. A huge programme of community engagement across the site allows Kampus to become a beating urban heart, and ensures the public realm is not just seen as an extension to the buildings and only for the residents of the scheme, but for all the local community including the adjacent Canal Street which has a very active and engaged community organisation.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Design architects: Mecanno and ShedKM. Delivery architects: ShedKM and Chapman Taylor

Project location: Aytoun St, Manchester M1 3GL

Design year: 2018

Year Built: 2021


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