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Water beauty: Bradford's city centre park completes

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Bradford’s new City Park, which contains the largest city-centre water feature in the UK, will finally open next month

Designed by Gillespies, with Sturgeon North and Arup, the huge 2.4ha scheme stems from Will Alsop’s grander 2003 masterplan to flood part of the city centre and create a new public space.

Hailed as ‘creating a landscape for investment’, the £24.4 million ‘mirror pool’ project in front of the Grade I-listed, Victorian City Hall also features the country’s tallest urban fountain, which sprays water an impressive 30m into the air.

Gillespies won the Park at the Heart scheme back in November 2006 after Alsop’s original plans to fill the Bradford ‘bowl’ were significantly pared back. The practice submitted proposals for planning permission and funding back in 2007.

However the local authority’s bid for cash support was turned down by the Big Lottery Fund and Bradford Council was forced to stump up £10 million of its own money to get the scheme off the ground.

Tom Walker, partner at Gillespies in Leeds who led the design team said: ‘The City Park is a beautiful public space with water at its heart. This new centrepiece for Bradford acts as a pivotal focal point, and gives Bradford a new postcard identity with the unique dynamic mirror pool and high quality landscape. Its magnificent grand public spaces promise to delight both local people and visitors.

Project description

Mirror pool and water features

At the heart of the completed City Park is a huge water feature, the 76m by 58m, 4,000m² reflective mirror pool. The mirror pool is a multi-functional space. The body of water can drain down fully to provide a large-scale events venue.  The water level can also be lowered slightly to reveal causeways, allowing people to walk through the pool between the fountains.  The causeway also divides the water into three pools which can be drained in any combination to provide a smaller event space, with water as a backdrop.

The pool contains 600 cubic metres of water and over 100 fountains. The central fountain can reach over 30m high making it the tallest in any UK city.

Despite the size of the pool, the water is very shallow (220mm max.) changing depth very gradually, which brings benefits for sustainability and functionality for events and safety. The fountains have an elaborate series of pre-set programmes that change depending on the day, the weather and local events. The sequence of fountains will respond to the daily rhythms of the city, marking times such as when people travel to and from work or take their lunch break.

The ability to fully drain the pool on a daily basis simplifies the operational and maintenance of the pool. This was a key factor in the design development. It removes the need for specialist cleaning equipment at ground level reducing the annual maintenance costs.

Public art at City Park
Two artists were commissioned to work with City Park’s design team. Wolfgang Buttress designed 10 galvanised steel columns measuring 17m high designed to look like stylised reeds and rushes sitting at the edge of the mirror pool and also three smaller sculptures cast from reconstituted stone that provide interest and stopping points in the café space at the edge of the park.

Usman Haque and Jonathan Laventhol of Haque Design + Research designed and installed the interactive display ‘Another Life’ housed in four of the lighting columns, bringing an element of the responsive and conversant to City Park.  Using computer vision systems the laser display and fountains interact with the people in the space as well as environmental factors such as the time of day, the weather, and the water depth of the mirror pool.  The goal is to affect people and how they move through and use the square, holding their interest and engagement, and to bring animation and movement to the centre of Bradford.

Buildings within City Park
The project contains two structures both designed by Leeds-based Sturgeon North Architects: the bus canopy and the pavilion building. Arup provided the structural engineering design. The bus canopy holds the bus stops relocated when the street running through City Park, now replaced by the mirror pool, was closed.

The pvilion is an earth-covered building complete with a tree-planted viewing hill and walkway with a ‘contemporary take on the ha-ha’. Inside, the ground floor is an office for on-site staff, a control room, commercial space and public toilets. In the basement is the fountain plant room and the water tank which contains the full volume of the mirror pool when drained down. The mirror pool water is filtered, treated and re-cycled. It is also topped up by a water supply from an on-site 230m-deep borehole, and rainwater captured within the mirror pool basin.



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