Manchester City Council seeks designers for £25 million public realm project

The wide-ranging redevelopment of Piccadilly Gardens will include a children’s playground, pedestrianised areas, new lighting and wayfinding.

Manchester City Council is searching for a design team to lead a £25 million public realm redevelopment project.

The project will focus on the Piccadilly Gardens area of the city, a central area located near several transport hubs and retail districts.

For “visitors and Mancunians alike”

It was last redeveloped in 2001 and additional elements have been added incrementally to the site since then. The planned redevelopment will aim to create “a single uniformed space”.

The briefing document for the international competition states the public realm must be redesigned with flexibility in mind. Attention must be paid to both leisure and practicality – with consideration for “visitors and Mancunians alike”.

A “level of multi-functionality” is necessary to ensure the area can be used widely year-round, the council states.

Pedestrianisation and safety priorities

As with the redevelopment of London’s Oxford Street, which has been in the works since last summer, there will be an emphasis on the area being a pedestrian-first space.

The council has highlighted a selection of places within Piccadilly Gardens which could potentially be sites where driving is prohibited. These would be supported with the enhancement of existing movement patterns around the area.

Increased safety measures will also need to be considered by the successful design team, the council says. These will include easy implementation of CCTV, and clear sight lines to maximise pedestrian safety.

Additionally, the development of lighting design principles will be needed. Lighting will aim to increase safety in and around the area, while also highlighting wayfinding, the council says.

Greenery and supporting design elements

A key consideration throughout the redesign project should be the preservation of green space where possible, the brief states. A reduction in grass and planting “could be perceived as a negative development”, the document explains.

Encouragement of biodiversity within the area, by way of planters and other greenery is suggested. This will have the added benefit of helping to clean the city’s air and supporting carbon neutral targets, the brief states.

Emphasising that the £25 million project is a holistic one, the council also points out that elements like a children’s playground, street furniture and a bus station will need to be designed and implemented.

As the project looks to provide an example of good public realm redesign, the council says all elements will be tested by the city’s access and disability groups. The intention is for the area to be “a space for all”.

Those looking to apply for the tender will first need to express their interest in the project. More information, including the brief and key dates can be found via the contract notice.

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