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Christine Hawley scoops Salford competition

Christine Hawley Architects has won an riba single-stage international ideas competition to improve a network of public spaces linking civic buildings in the historic centre of Salford (above).

The 12,000m2 site includes the University, Museum, Art Gallery and other cultural and university buildings. The practice beat Wilson Havenhand Fox of Lincoln (second), Wallbridge and Bird of Winchester (joint third), Estell Warren Landscape Architects of Leeds (joint third) and Buschow Henley with Space Syntax (special mention).

The practice chose to try and unite the area - which has been split in two by the A6 - by proposing an enclosed bridge and a network of paths, colourful blocks of planting, and water channels. The bridge includes a new auditorium for the university and public in its undercroft and acts as a symbol for the area. Judges including John Lyall and Tom Lonsdale were looking for 'imaginative and stimulating design solutions.' They described Hawley's winning scheme as 'radical and thought-provoking', and as courageous while neither impractical nor inexpensive.

Wilson Havenhand Fox was commended for 'bringing the physical superstructure to the road edge' and creating a more 'civic' route through the site for drivers using screens and new buildings. Wallbridge and Bird was praised for a 'simple and elegant solution' sinking the road, and Estell Warren Landscape Architects for the 'lyrical, artistic expressionism' of proposed links over the A6 by a series of bridges and an elevated, parabola-shaped park called the 'Salford Eye'.

Prizes totalling £14,000 are to be awarded.

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