In somewhat good news, Piccadilly Gardens is set to transform as part of a £25 million overhaul which is currently being undertaken by Manchester City Council — but one part of it will look very similar after work finishes. The concrete pavilion, located opposite Piccadilly Gardens bus station and tram stop, is owned privately by Legal and General’s Investment Management firm (LGIM), meaning the council doesn’t have the power to change — or demolish — it.
Starting with the demolition of the hated ‘Berlin Wall’ back in 2020, the pavilion is set to get a softer look – consisting of a metal, glass and LED art installation that will embellish the concrete walls facing the bus and tram station.
The current concrete pavilion was designed by respected Japanese architect Tadao Ando, however, planning statements reveal that it’s felt it does not “contribute positively to local townscape” and blocks “natural surveillance” – therefore contributing to crime in the area. The area has been a hotbed for anti-social behaviour over the years, with police hoping the demolition of the ‘Berlin Wall’ would help to combat the area’s issues.
Owner of the pavilion, LGIM, is very clear about why it doesn’t want to knock down the pavilion. It says it’s now part of Manchester’s history, having been installed in 2002 when the Gardens got a facelift for the Commonwealth Games in the city.
“Despite what people think about the concrete ‘wall’, it is already part of the history and heritage of Manchester,” a design and access statement in the planning application for the redesign said. “With nearly 10 years of history, resolving the issues of this area is not as simple as demolishing it. Why not make it into something we are proud of? Like we are proud of our music, our culture, our history.”
The pavilion will be opened up by removing the connecting roof between the two buildings that make up the pavilion – one of which was home to a Caffe Nero – with the addition of extra lighting and the new neon art installation. Savills said in the planning documents that the “overall effect will be to create a more legible, safer and attractive route for pedestrians”.
Images show illuminated weaves of lights along the wall with additional lights hanging beneath. These weaved lights will be created making use of the existing tie holes in the concrete wall. These will be switched on during the daytime, according to the planning application.
Manchester City Council announced back in the summer that a design team has been appointed to develop plans to create a “world class space” in the area centred around Piccadilly Gardens. A team led by LDA Design has been selected from four shortlisted candidates in an international design competition based on initial concept designs submitted for the prominent city centre area.
LDA Design will now be asked to produce detailed designs to enable a full planning application to be submitted next year. Before any plans are submitted, these designs will be made public and Manchester people consulted on their views about them.
The council’s design brief calls for Piccadilly Gardens to be carefully designed to support a flexible space which tens of thousands of people walk through every day, retain the existing listed monuments and statues, and tramlines and infrastructure, in addition to the existing Pavilion structure.
The design team has suggested that the pedestrianisation of Piccadilly, outside the Morrisons store, be examined, which would involve relocating a series of bus stops. The newest information is that the public consultation will come at some point in 2024, but the exact date has not yet been revealed.