This article has been prepared by Hardscape with assistance from AECOM and Gillespies.
The paving at Salford University’s Peel Park Quarter draws on historic precedents to create a vibrant, contemporary design that was not without challenges.
Salford University’s Peel Park Quarter is an £81 million development, combining student accommodation with cutting-edge university facilities that are linked together by an extensive public realm scheme. The development marries the new university gateway and the Adelphi Creative Arts Building with a public space designed to create an eye-catching destination throughout the residential part of the campus. The campus has a rich history, with Peel Park being one of Britain’s earliest examples of an urban public park. Salford was also home to one of the founding fathers of communism, Friedrich Engels, in the 19th Century and the new campus pays homage to this with a fibre glass statue of him as a focal point.
The hard landscape and layout were designed by the landscape architect and project masterplanning consultant, Aecom Manchester which took inspiration from the design aesthetics of Amsterdam Science University (to which Hardscape also arranged a visit), a campus university much like Salford.
Simon Dowse of AECOM writes: ‘AECOM was commissioned by the University of Salford as part of a multi-disciplinary team to develop designs for the campus public realm in association with a major new arts building and improvements in connectivity and linkages across the campus, which was identified in the University’s masterplan. ‘Our vision for the university involved adopting a holistic design approach for the public realm and the creation of a new pedestrian spine running through the campus, including a series of squares and plazas to act as performance spaces, outdoor lecture theatres or quieter meeting places. ‘Links were also provided to the adjacent Peel Park to provide improved access for both students and the local community to use both facilities. ‘The university wanted to create a modern-looking campus in a drive to attract more students and provide a vibrant, functional and flexible setting for new buildings, including the integration of student accommoda-tion on site to provide greater use and animation of the campus. High on the university’s agenda is the creation of a safe place to learn, work and live and doing so in a sustainable manner. We thoroughly examined a range of paving products and situations to understand manufacturing, application and maintenance implications. A visit to Holland with the client to look at concrete paving products that are manufactured from recycled materials and subsequent visit to a university campus and discussions with their estates team, led us to specify the Kellen product. Other benefits included the range of colours, sizes, and ability to lift and relay when undertaking utility repairs or additions as the campus grows.
‘The colour palette was selected in conjunction with natural stone products. We elected to use natural pink granite for walls and copings to create raised lawns, which successfully integrated existing mature trees and their root zones at the edge of the spine into the design.
‘We worked in conjunction with the architect, Stride Treglown, in the design of the building interface, creating an outdoor performance space that would relate to the indoor space on the lower ground floor of the building. Significant level change allowed a small amphitheatre to be created which had the dual function of providing an outdoor performance space as well as an informal space for sitting on a range of different sized steps and colours: inspired by the distinctive design of Keller Fountain Park, Portland, by Lawrence Halprin. The colour and size range enabled the product to be taken inside the arts building to provide a visual and physical connection, enhanced with the use of floor to ceiling structural glazing.
‘The paving was designed to allow for over-the-edge drainage into planting beds to reduce the amount of positive drainage that would end up in the adjacent river Irwell, often prone to flooding the university’s sports pitches. Upstands were also excluded to reduce trip hazards and avoid potential damage from maintenance machinery. ‘The design was subsequently detailed by DEP, as AECOM remained client side to lead on compliance, over-seeing and reviewing the construction on site.’
Hardscape was presented with the challenge of providing material inspiration that fulfilled Aecom’s brief of a modern, vibrant area to connect the buildings and student housing, whilst also paying tribute to the heritage of the area. Design detailing, construction execution and site supervision was carried out by DEP Landscape for the Arts Building phase and by Gillespies for the student housing phase. Gillespies explained its role: ‘Gillespies, on behalf of a consortium led by Graham Investments, has designed a new “parkland” setting for Peel Park Quarter, a 2,050-unit student residential development at the University of Salford’s main campus adjoining the historic Peel Park. ‘Planned to be delivered over two phases, the Sheppard Robson-designed development incorporates social spaces including a cinema, fitness suite and games room, along with a high quality public realm by Gillespies.’ ‘Working within an approved masterplan, Gillespies’ design provides a series of high quality pedestrian connections and green open spaces that respond to the arrangement of the built form and how the open spaces will be accessed between the residential buildings. The balance between hard and soft landscaping helps to seamlessly connect the new campus with the adjacent Peel Park; one of the first public parks to be opened in the UK.
‘Two podium deck courtyards, formed by the arrangement of the blocks, offer students a safe, open environment in which they can meet, relax and socialise that have a different look and “feel” from surrounding areas. The use of artificial grass provides year-round accessible use, as well as shade-tolerant planting to cope with the shadows formed by the tall buildings. Pergola structures were also introduced to define the spill out areas from the community rooms, as well as offering students an increased sense of privacy. Recycled plastic decking was introduced to highlight entrance points into the courtyards and refuse recycling bins connect directly to the service yard below.’ ‘The technical design was constrained by a level of basement parking partially set into the ground, which responded to the University’s requirements for parking. The minimised depth of construction over the underground parking resulted in the introduction of timber planters containing shrubs and trees to add height, colour and structure. ‘Intuitive movement has been at the core of the public realm design. The Broadwalk is a wide public realm connecting the new student village blocks to the Gateway Project. The striking geometry of this new inter-vention, along with its irregular edges that provide random pockets for new planting and informal seating, encourages chance encounters and knowledge sharing, transforming this space into more than just a connecting path. The elevated position affords views across Peel Park and towards the River Irwell. The Broadwalk uses a random three colour mix of Hardscape’s Kellen paving to form a vibrant, social space that corresponds with the palette of the wider masterplan.
‘The scheme uses a palette of brickwork, natural metal, timber and stone that is sympathetic to its parkland setting. Outside the student village, the client wanted an open feel and to minimise the use of intrusive security fences while providing a deterrent to unauthorised vehicular access. In response to this a modern ha-ha was created along the northern boundary of the historic Peel Park filled with biodiverse species. External lighting further enhances the vibrancy of the area at night. ‘The design has received BREEAM Excellent, incorporating a CHP system, greywater recycling, PV panels and secure bike parking.’ The client team wanted materials that were rich in texture and colour to reflect the historic roots of the area, and could offer variable unit sizes to provide clear areas of direction and function. Kellen paving and steps offered this choice whilst complemen-ting the futuristic fibre sculpture.
Kellen Lavaro was used as paving for walkways in a striking pattern with a combination of light and dark grey blends, alongside rich, dark red blends injecting colour into the scheme, not only to instill a memorable identity for the university, but to encourage natural movement across the campus. Kellen Lavaro paving was used in many sizes, taking advantage of the product ranges, with 60–70 different sizes available. The design team also chose to incorporate Kellen material as wall cladding to the futuristic new Adelphi Creative Arts building, giving the illusion of the striking pattern continuing to flow up the wall. This also shows why the chosen material had to have architectural and functional flexibility and the correct technical attributes. Hardscape supplied a total of 14,000m2 of paving, walling units, copings and bespoke benches. All of the outdoor furniture, designed by Aecom, was detailed and produced by Hardscape. These pieces helped maintain the visual identity of the campus by using similar blends to the paving, with light and dark grey granite benches. The grey blend of granite used for the benches provided a neutral base with elements that catch the light and sparkle in the sun. The Gateway building architect Stride Treglown of Manchester wanted the material colour and pattern to flow into the building. Granite was also recommended by Hardscape for the internal paving stairs due to its durability and easy maintenance, which are crucial for indoor areas, in a similar striking pattern to the Kellen outside in order to maintain the vibrant atmosphere. A striking amphitheatre was also created to encourage passers-by to sit, pause and relax amidst the hustle and bustle of university life and for use as external ‘theatre’ production space. It consists of 1.5m x 2m x 1m blocks of granite which Hardscape recessed into the paving, a task that was made difficult due to the blocks’ immense size. Hardscape not only advised on the manufacturing of the large pieces, but also the detailed production schedules and the logistics of construction. It also suggested suitable types and colour, maintaining the same grey tones in the paving and rich dark red as a striking motif.
There were a number of logistical challenges in carrying out such a sizeable project. Production processes had to be scheduled carefully to ensure that the huge range of materials was ready to be delivered to site at the right time. Last minute changes to detailing also had to be managed by providing on-site stone masonry in large volumes which all had to be approved by the client. Hardscape’s flexibility, knowledge of design and specification, not only of the materials but also of the design and intentions, helped to shape the project into what it is now. Managing director of Hardscape, Mathew Haslam, said, ‘This was a really exciting project to work on involving multiple materials and several logistical considerations. It was great working alongside Graham Construction, BAM Construction and their subcontract teams. Our materials knowledge was used to its optimum to create the fun and functional space for students and passers-by to enjoy that reflects the interesting history of Salford whilst also complementing the innovative modern buildings.’
The scheme has created an attractive hub where students can live and learn as well as being enjoyed by members of the public passing through Peel Park. This demonstrates the role paving, and innovative uses of materials, can play in creating multifunctional public spaces that offer something for everyone to enjoy.