St Peter's Square, Manchester


Manchester, United Kingdom | 2010 | Competition entry

Our proposals for St Peter’s Square begin by acknowledging the Square’s elongated tripartite form. The Town Hall, its Annex and the Central Library present three quite different characters to the space with the potential for three centres of gravity. At the same time, we also needed to pull these three parts together, to give the square a sense of being one place even though people can find themselves in three different contexts.

To the north, a flat surface surrounded by seating terraces has been set into the surrounding slope. With planting this provides a sheltered edge that reduces the impact of the tram and allows the Town Hall to become a prominent feature of a new Peace Square, a restful area of tranquility. This space is filled with an organic paving pattern related to the ‘Peterloo’ memorial theme and can be used for both formal and informal events. Albert Square currently provides a civic space of a scale that is used for city events, however at times, space is tight and an additional annex could prove useful. The city also holds festivals of music, dance and performance and an additional small venue could expand options for these ever more popular events. However, our primary concern has been the creation of a space for small and large groups of people wishing to commemorate significant dates and events that form part of the Peace Garden’s current role.

To the south, the creation of a flat ground plane in front of the Central Library is essential to hold its monumental form. Seating terraces that disguise the intrusion of the tram platforms accompany this space. These provide a sense of place and tranquil space for meeting, in full view at this pivotal point in the city, surrounded by the movement of pedestrians, trams and vehicles. The use of carefully chosen bands of coloured sandstone will emerge from the slope of the Square like rock strata, allowing us to differentiate the bands of seating terraces. 

The coloured strata located adjacent to the Cenotaph will also help to differentiate its white Portland stone form in the same manner as the white marble statues that sit on plinths of local stone in Albert Square. The change in grade around the Cenotaph and the provision of seating terraces and long benches on the platforms allows the removal of the large variety of balustrades that impact on the memorial’s form. This will help give a composed presence to the Cenotaph from the new terrace outside Elisabeth House. The platform will appear as an elevated terrace with a backdrop of trees. The tram shelters can be moved northwards allowing clear views of the Central Library portico from the Elisabeth House arcade.