Location: Salford, England
Design team leader: Jim Gibson, Partner, Gillespies
Public Realm & Landscape Designer: Gillespies
Buildings Architects: Wilkinson Eyre, Chapman Taylor, Fairhurst Design Group, Sheppard Robson
Masterplan: Benoy Architects
Main Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease
Structural and Civil Engineer: Jacobs UK
M&E Engineers: AECOM
Quantity Surveyor: Gleeds
Landscape Contractor: English Landscapes
Lighting Consultant: Pinniger & Partners
Project year: 2011
Photographs: Darren Hartley Photography and Ben Page Photography
Creative companies and TV channels moving to MediaCityUK will be inspired by its fresh new public spaces and waterside landscape, designed by Gillespies. MediaCityUK has been developed by The Peel Group and creates a globally significant digital media hub. It is one of the UK’s largest construction projects and has regenerated a former industrial dock site.
Paralleling the development of the buildings has been the construction of high quality external spaces designed to integrate the new architecture and create a fresh and creative public realm, with heart and human scale. The external spaces enhance the appeal and function of each building individually, and ground them collectively into a holistic 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.
The industrial history of the area is not forgotten. The construction materials selected across the development, including steel, natural stone, cement and wood reflect the former dockside character but are used in a contemporary style.
Jim Gibson who led Gillespies’ team comments:
“With no previous architecture or infrastructure, the site was a blank canvas and we were able to start afresh to create contemporary spaces. Our design approach was confident and contemporary and is crafted specifically for the creative needs of a new media community.
The new public spaces are designed to fulfil a variety of uses and be a recreational destination for those to live, work and visit MediaCityUK. For example, the Dock Terrace provides tram passengers with beautiful waterside views, but also, because we have reduced the height of the former dock edge and created a cascade of terraced steps, is now one of the few places in Salford Quays where people can get close to the water.”
The landscape is designed for the pedestrian and has created one of the UK’s largest shared surface environments where, structured within strict security constraints, complete DDA compliance is achieved.
By incorporating exemplary sustainable design principals, MediaCityUK is the first project in the world to become a BREEAM accredited Sustainable Community. The landscape has supported this, including with over 200 new deciduous and evergreen trees having been planted.