Old Market Square


Nottingham, United Kingdom | 2007

Old Market Square in Nottingham is one of the oldest public squares in the UK with an 800 year history as a market place. At 11,500m2, it is the second largest in Britain after London’s Trafalgar Square. Its regeneration by Gustafson Porter + Bowman 2005-2007 involved the replacement of a design by T.C.Howitt, architect of the square and the adjacent Council House building. Both the square and building were completed in 1929, and the square was listed in 1994.  

In 2004, the City’s Development Department organised an international design competition. The brief was to; provide unhindered access for all, use high quality materials, provide new water features, introduce soft landscaping, integrate street furniture, create flexible performance space, allow people to linger, encourage 24 hour use, enable perimeter activity to spill out into the space, and attract pedestrians by virtue of its design. It also had to create a sense of place and reinforce the distinctive qualities and character of Nottingham.  

The new design incorporates the organic topography of the original medieval square, and accommodates existing falls by gradual level changes for wheelchair users and drainage.  The predominant material is granite, to reflect the importance of the space and provide a long design life.  Many UK public squares are dominated by road traffic, signage and street furniture; however collaboration with city planners has resulted in a clutter free, contemporary design.

The materials have been designed and selected to be sympathetic to their context and robust enough to stand the test of time. The central market square is composed of a large light coloured surface of slip resistant granite from Portugal that compliments the Portland stone of the Council House.  It is accessible to vehicles for staging events, setting up markets and creating the backdrops required for a variety of performances.  New terraces providing significantly more seating than before and are formed of grey, black, white and beige granite blocks.  These colours reflect the range of stone used in the surrounding building facades and also delineate level changes.  Their tapering forms create rows of benches, whilst others form planters.  

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The space retains its own distinctiveness and sense of place through its sympathetic response to existing site conditions. The community has clearly given life to the square with the diverse activities and human interaction acting as a constant cabaret and source of visual excitement.
— Sarah Gaventa, Director of CABE Space (Speaking in 2008)
The project has been well received by the citizens of Nottingham and is well used both in attending events but also using the seating areas to relax and meet.
Previous issues associated with antisocial behaviour have effectively disappeared with the new design.
— Steve Hunt, Nottingham City Council (Client)
This calm, quiet space retains its own distinctiveness and sense of place through its organic structure...Elements such as the terracing and water feature convey an identity of their own through sound, movement and delight whilst also mirroring the existing city in the reflecting pool.
— Ruth Slavid, Architects' Journal (2008)
This is a wonderful example of design and regeneration. Gustafson Porter have taken a chaotic area that was a skateboarder’s paradise and turned it into a wonderful democratic space thronging with people.
— East Midlands Development Agency judges for Design Excellence Award (2007)


2011      Best British Buildings of the 21st Century / Blueprint Magazine
2008    Winner, Natural Stone Awards
2008    RIBA Award, East Midlands
2008    Highly Commended, Civil Building of the Year – SCALA
2008    RIBA CABE Public Space Award
2008    Commendation for Regeneration, RICS East Midland Awards
2008    East Midlands Merit Awards, Institution of Civil Engineers
2008    Outstanding Contribution to the Public Realm, CentreVision Award, and Charcon Hard
2008    Landscaping Award, Civic Trust Awards
2007    Best Public Realm & Open Space Award and Overall Winner, Lord Mayor’s Awards
2007    Highly Commended, Urban Design Category, Landscape Institute Awards
2007    Commendation for Water Feature, Nottingham Civic Society
2007    Design Excellence Award, East Midlands Property Awards