I am delighted and excited to announce that the competition for the re-design of Market Place starts today. We are also delighted to be working with RIBA which is responsible for the overall running of the competition.
Way back in 2011/2 when the Council submitted its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to secure the grant that has made the THI a reality, Market Place was identified as the third of three public spaces in the town centre (the other two being Leyland Street and Atherton Street) that would be improved as part of the THI.
As good as it gets: Market Place on a sunny spring day in 2014
Whilst Atherton Street and Leyland Street were fairly straightforward re-paving and enhancement schemes to adopted highways, Market Place is an entirely different kettle of fish because it is a public open space rather than part of the public highway and it serves no real purpose at the moment and there is no real reason for anyone to use the space. Also every inch of the space was part of a landscaping scheme that was implemented in 1965-6 that doesn’t really do much for the character, appearance or local distinctiveness of the conservation area, so it is ripe for a complete re-think.
Market Place on a rainy autumn day. Re-think required!
The Bid therefore suggested a design competition to re-design and re-invent the space at Market Place. To assist with the redesign of Market Place we asked the people of Prescot what your ideas and hopes for the space were during consultation with PLACED over May to September 2016 (findings report here).
These findings have fed into a brief for the competition, which will be open to architects, landscape architects and urban designers. Other things for the designers to consider are the character and appearance of the conservation area, the setting of the nearby Listed Church and War Memorial, what a THI can and cannot fund, how the space could link with things like the Shakespeare North Playhouse, the proposed cinema at the Shopping Centre, the amenity of neighbours, quality of design and materials and so on.
Market Place being surveyed earlier this year
The competition is in two stages: the first is an anonymous ‘concept’ submission where a site plan, a day view and a night view area needed alongside a written description of the scheme. From these anonymous entries a handful will be shortlisted to work up their concepts into more detailed designs, of which one will be chosen as the final design which will be worked up further and built on site in 2018.
Via RIBA, we have appointed Euan MacDonald of HawkinsBrown to chair the panel that will evaluate the designs. Euan has worked on numerous high profile projects on site that are used by many people on a daily basis – the Corby Cube (a mixed use new civic building), Stoke Newington Town Hall (a reconfigured and extended Listed Building) and new and re-vamped university campus buildings.
The Market Place re-design is of particular interest to me because I really like to see new design that is both of its time but responds to its context. My view is that conservation areas should keep the best buildings and spaces from all eras and, where appropriate, add to this new buildings and spaces that are locally distinctive and add to the sum of the conservation area’s parts. Prescot already has a medieval layout that contains buildings and spaces from the mediaeval era onwards, a mix of traditional building materials and a broad range of architectural styles. It is time to make the twenty-first century’s first major addition to this melting pot of quality buildings and spaces.
Full details for the competition are on the RIBA-hosted competition website.