Extensive commercial development in Manchester given a scenic edge by Gillespies
Creative companies and TV channels planning their move to MediaCityUK in Manchester’s Salford Quays will be met by the site’s fresh new public spaces and waterside landscape designed by the Manchester studio of Gillespies landscape architects. Newly open and spanning 36 acres and adjoining the Manchester Ship Canal, the first phase of MediaCityUK, being developed by Peel Media, is one of the UK’s largest construction projects.
To date some 378 apartments have been completed, together with new commercial, retail and leisure space and a hotel. The last year has seen the opening of the new Metrolink tram station, a huge studio complex that includes the largest studio in Europe and completion of the University of Salford’s new campus.
Paralleling the development of the buildings has been the construction of high quality external spaces designed to integrate the new architecture and create a contemporary and creative public realm with heart and human scale. The external spaces surrounding the buildings enhance the appeal and function of each individually, and ground them collectively into a holistic and distinctive visual language.
Gillespies’ challenge was how to deliver this given the density of the built development and the constraints to hard and soft landscape created by the exposed site, challenging micro climate and restrictions created by extensive underground communications and anti-terrorism site security restrictions.
At the heart of the new landscape is a multifunctional Piazza, with a radial geometry and elegant arrangement of natural stone paving that establishes a dynamic connection between the waterfront and the adjacent buildings. Its broad expanse serves as a function space for activities, media events and large gatherings and is enhanced at night by over 350 computer controlled LED up-lighters and dramatic 20m high sculptural lighting masts.
Sitting in sharp contrast to the sleek lines of the Piazza is Media Park - the development’s green heart. Here, rich naturalistic planting with timber decking and sweeping paths create intimate spaces for strolling, relaxing and creative inspiration as well as attractive backdrops for outdoor broadcasts. Responding to its waterside location, the informality of the park is expressed in the waves of undulating greenery that reflect and juxtapose with the radial geometry of the site. Bespoke designed granite with wood inlay benches offer abundant seating.