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River Street

Manchester, Downing Students

OPEN was appointed to design the landscape and public realm for a 32-storey student residential development at River Street in Manchester.

The high-profile site, located on the edge of Manchester city centre, has been derelict since 2005 when a proposed apartment development stalled during construction. The site, left with the part finish concrete frame of the planned building, has since become an unwanted landmark on the Manchester skyline. Working collaboratively with Simpson Haugh Architects, the client and the wider project team, the design of the landscape and public realm was developed iteratively alongside the design of the building to ensure a synergy between the internal and external spaces.

The proposal creates an attractive, safe and legible space with the flexibility to form part of a wider network of public space and pedestrian routes, within the context of the adjacent First Street and Great Jackson Street strategic masterplans. An elegant grid of paving, consisting of a simple hierarchy of three paving unit sizes, forms the public realm to the south of the building, alongside the Mancunian Way slip road. This design follows the building façade to create three replicating spaces which incorporate a repeating grid of street trees, which form part of a wind mitigation strategy, informed by extensive wind tunnel testing.

The design aims to transform the current narrow, pavement environment to create a safe, permeable space which can accommodate the increased pedestrian traffic generated by this development and the emerging site context.

Alongside the design of the public realm proposals, OPEN prepared a Townscape & Visual Impact Assessment, as part of an EIA, to support the detailed planning application.