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Council backs demolition for Tadao Ando’s only UK building

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Manchester City Council chiefs have given the initial go-ahead for plans to pull down Tadao Ando’s Piccadilly Gardens pavilion in Manchester – the Japanese architect’s only building in the UK

Last week the authority’s executive allowed Legal & General Investment Management Real Assets (L&G) to move ahead with proposals to flatten the controversial 14-year-old concrete structure and replace it with a new leisure-led scheme masterminded by Urban Edge Architecture.

The designs, which are being drawn up in partnership with the city council and form part of a wider £10 million overhaul of the square, will now be ‘further developed’ ahead of a planning submission later in the year.

Built in 2002 during a major makeover of the gardens, Ando’s existing pavilion has been widely criticised and was even blamed for Piccadilly Gardens being branded one of the city’s worst tourist attractions by TripAdvisor.  

In 2013, Osaka-based Ando agreed that plans to cover the building’s grey concrete in greenery and plant life were an interesting idea and that he would support them. But those proposals were ditched and L&G proposed a pair of larger pavilions to increase the developer’s lease area and fund the improvements.

Consultation on the new designs took place in December 2016, both online and in a public exhibition in the Town Hall Extension. According to the council, almost 300 people attended the consultation sessions and more than 200 feedback forms were returned.

However, local architect Emma Curtin, a lecturer in architecture at the University of Liverpool said: ‘The pavilion has always had its critics but the redesigned garden was popular when it opened, just 15 years ago, to coincide with the opening of the Commonwealth Games, back when the fountains worked and the structures were illuminated.

‘Five years later the proposed alteration of green roof was given planning approval. If this had been implemented, it might have helped with the pavilion’s public image.

She added: ‘It is immensely frustrating that, following a period of what could be described as “managed decline” the council executive has adopted the policy of demolishing the pavilion to allow new leaseholders L&G to build a larger retail shed. I had to really probe to get an indication of the increased footprint because there were no existing plans available for comparison at the public consultation event.

Curtin concluded: ‘Ando’s 2002 scheme saw around 25 per cent of the square lost to commercial development. This latest proposal similarly would be part paid for by commercialising yet more public space. This regressive strategy isn’t new in Manchester but the lack of design ambition this time is shocking.

The current proposal has none of [Ando’s] ambition

‘Back in 2002 the local authority had the vision to appoint an internationally acclaimed architect to design a 24-hour public space of high quality. Sadly, the current proposal has none of this ambition.’

Ando’s only other completed project in the UK is a 2011 water feature in Mount Street, Mayfair, London (AJ 06.07.11).

Csw photomontage piccadilly gardens urban edge

Csw photomontage piccadilly gardens urban edge

Key aspects of the new proposal:

Plans include removing the existing building and feature wall and replacing them with two new pavilion buildings linked by a covered area of new public space for year-round use.

The proposal aims to improve lighting and the design of the current pavilion building and gardens to deter anti-social behaviour and improve natural surveillance.

The scheme features extra seating throughout the gardens, more soft landscaping, and new shrubs and plants.

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