Programmed Space

26 05 2011

Posted by Jun

Picadilly Garden, Manchester 2011

One day, during Easter, I was having coffee with some friends in a café in Picadilly Garden in Manchester. It was a cold evening and most of the passers-by seemed to have clear destinations, probably on their way home. However, the look of the people determined to walk as fast as possible was unusually impressive in the massive open space. It looked like that the space is arranged to show off how busy Manchester people are; and, if it was one of the intentions of the design, it looked very successful.

Picadilly Garden, 1955

And, the other day, I came across with this picture on the Internet which shows people resting on sun-bathing chairs in the old sunken garden in Picadilly before the regeneration. The contrast itself was quite impressive, however, what the most impressed me was the fact that it shows how well the programmed space (meticulously analyzed context and reorganized space programme such as area for resting and area for movement) can work, or dictate a kind of staged scene, although there is some evidence of conflict between the design and free-walkers as Rowland Byass, a landscape architect, noted.

I am linking a design appraisal by Rowland Byass. The context of this public space regeneration and the current use of people are well captured in his article.





4 responses

29 05 2011

Well it is clearly evident that the perception of the modern public space has changed; they are no longer the space that showcases public life and activities.
I have never been to Manchester so do not understand the context around the garden, but there is a similar example in Mumbai, the Oval Ground. The historic location of this ground is like on the edge of the beach, but after the British rule developing mumbai and reclaiming the land, it found itself on the edge of a major metro station in the business part of the city. Thus, as per the design and location of the ground it was supposed to recreational, but over the years it has shown the fast pace life of the city. But the ironic part about the space is, inspite of the changed perception, it still works because it had become a symbol of the city.

29 05 2011
Wang Jing

I think the key point for the public space design is considering the various possibilities of the space using. The design may be just one way to use this space, but the designer could not foresee all of the ways. If the physical part of the public space is designed by the urban designers, architects or the landscape designers, the intangible activities should be designed by the citizens. I think the sole of the public spaces and the identity of them come from the activities. That is to say, the good design for the public spaces may be the flexible design, which could stimulate the different activities in this space instead of restraining different ways to use them.

31 05 2011
Harvé Dhillon

Public space definitely requires more than just one use; it is the ability to adapt these spaces that allows for the creation of various parts of our cities to remain vibrant and interesting. I think sometimes designers always have a ready-made opinion about what activities should take place. Despite assumptions made it is always the way the people use these spaces, which determine how a space can vary. I think the most recent examples I have seen is in Central London this Easter due to the Royal Wedding. Streets, squares and parks alike all were being utilised in a completely different way to they otherwise would be. Where cars once dominated people took over celebrating and creating a subtle pedestrianisation of space.

2 06 2011

Jun, this post interested me, as it made me think about how I use that space. I have many memories from this space. As I attended school in Manchester City Centre, this was an area which my friends and I regularly used. It is quite funny to think about how the way we used the space changed over time. I remember playing in fountains, lying on the grass chatting, visiting temporary markets, meeting new people when events such as the football were on and the space was packed out, relaxing with my boyfriend, chatting with my grandma, laughing at boys using the awfully public outdoor urinals, and underage drinking of a Saturday night when our fake I.D.s failed!

It seems that this space has been an important feature throughout my youth, and provided me with a whole range of great memories! Funnily enough though, I do not remember the space before it was done up. Maybe this is down to age, or maybe this is down to quality design?

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