Urban Design: Transport Interchange & City Centre Square

Dramatic redesign of the central square in front of the main train station in an historic English city. 

This project won a prestigious national award

I was the leading architect in the remodelling of this busy city centre transport interchange and the large public plaza at its centre. Major changes in the redesign included the removal of a roundabout junction in front of the station, removal of a road, alterations to the surrounding street network in the city centre including the sequencing of all traffic light signals, new and improved major bus stops and taxi ranks, signage and new car park. The focal point of this £4m project was a large high quality public square, the main city centre square. I was involved in the design of spectacular new fountains, the planting of mature trees delivered from Germany, generous seating and a grand new entrance to the train station. The plaza is now a major destination in itself as well as a charming first impression of the city for people leaving the train station. The square is also a multi functional events space, I designed it for high capacity crowd situations such as festivals and live concerts. The city is famous for one of Britain’s prime ministers, who came from there; the new design for the square honours him with an improved plinth and surroundings.

Whitelaw Turkington Landscape Architects (now owned by Grontmij) are one of the biggest and most respected companies of its type in the UK, they are an award winning Landscape Design practice, with a specialism in public realm and community masterplanning. During my time working with them gave me some excellent opportunities to develop my skills in diverse areas and on large, high profile projects with generous budgets and a high level of creative autonomy.

This £4m project is large, complex but also in a very prominent position so therefore it received a lot of press attention and controversy. The project was conceived as part of a government economic regeneration programme for the city centre. To create the large central space for the square,  it was necessary to remove a part of a road, a roundabout was also removed and traffic was instead directed around the square, this involved fine planning to control traffic in the wider area of the city centre.  To add to the complexities most of the buildings surrounding the new square have recognised heritage value and are protected by law. The station itself resembles a traditional English palace. As this square has substantial historical importance the quality of the design and materials was of a high quality in line with the prestigious and important location. Very large trees were imported from Germany, granite paving stone was imported from China and the fountains were specifically designed for this location. The paving was designed to a high standard and layed by skilled stonemasons with close supervision to achieve the high quality finish as desired.

This project is a busy transport interchange, our task was to allow efficient flow of people between the different forms of transport: bus, train, bicycle, taxi, private car and people moving on foot through the square. A significant part of our design work was to enable people with disabilities to equally access all transport options, this involved careful research and consultation with disability spokespersons. And the finished design is innovative in this respect.

The project brief required that the square would be a year round meeting place for the citizens, the municipal government presents spectacles and fairs where large crowds gather. Therefore I carried out research into designing for crowd safety and security in these situations including spatial calculations and flow/flux of people in given timescales.

I was involved in regular meetings with fountain designer specialists, as the fountains were bespoke and of the highest quality. Due to the historical nature of the setting, I had to carry out complex design work in collaboration with electrical engineers and transport engineers to allow the control room to be fitted and accessed below ground level.

An ex prime minister is from this city and his statue sits in the centre of this square, however we had to move it, change the direction in which he was facing and placed it on a plinth of higher quality.

Much of the work was a public relations exercise as the proposals were polemical, and at times did not receive public support or flattering coverage in the press. However, after completion it is proving to be increasingly popular with the local population. Since completion the positive economic effects have been felt in the area with a number of previously empty properties being converted into restaurants, offices and apartments, as the area becomes a more attractive place to live and work. The initial investment of our project is attracting other investment.