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Blackburn square: ‘secret garden’ design team chosen


Blackburn’s inspired winner in the Pennine Lancashire Squared competition is a design team who imagined a ‘secret landscape garden’ in Victoria Square.

Commissioned by regeneration agency Elevate, the prestigious contest invited architecture and landscape design teams across the world to generate ideas for high profile public spaces in six Pennine Lancashire towns.

Studio Weave and MESH Partnership’s winning entry for Blackburn suggests creating a secret garden that the nearby buildings gather round as if around a picnic blanket. The landscape grows out from the urban fabric, taking in rationalised traffic and accommodating level changes and ‘desire lines’ while delicately framing views of Blackburn landmarks side by side with new follies.

The design team envisaged the landscape by writing an adventure story about a boy who found a mirror on the floor of the shopping centre. In the mirror, the boy was transported into a secret landscape garden where the trees enjoyed their own versions of various playground games.

Chair of the judging panel, Stirling Prize-winning architect Stephen Hodder MBE, said: “The winning scheme by MESH Partnership and Studio Weave is probably one of the most unique proposals for a new urban square in recent times. The submission, accompanied by a beautifully illustrated narrative, seeks to introduce a wonderfully calm and picturesque garden into the busy town. With its undulating lawns, meandering tree-lined paths around a new folly, and a lake, it will be a truly public garden for the whole community to enjoy.”

Adam Scott, strategic director of regeneration and environment, Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The scheme is very exciting and will be a fantastic asset for the town. It’s a really important place for us, close to the historic St Johns Church. These lovely gardens would replace the unfriendly landscaping and roads that were put in when the shopping centre was built in the 1960s. Many people walk through here every day and they will really enjoy the scheme.”

A Studio Weave and MESH Partnership spokesperson said: “We’re very excited! To us the Blackburn site holds huge potential to be something distinctive and unusual and with our design we wanted to encourage it to express its unique personality. Blackburn sparked our imaginations and we can’t wait to get to know the town much better as we develop our ideas.”

Elevate Chief Executive Max Steinberg said: “The towns at the heart of Pennine Lancashire are all unique in their own way. The Pennine Lancashire Squared initiative is all about bringing out the personalities of six of those towns, giving each one a world class space at its centre to help rejuvenate the wider area. Studio Weave and MESH Partnership’s winning proposals for Blackburn will create an attractive green place which will inspire residents and visitors to take in and enjoy their surroundings.”

The other four practices which made the shortlist for Blackburn were Niall McLaughlin Architects with Dan Pearson Studio; Landscape Projects; OKRA landscape architects bv; and Scott Wilson with 172 Architects, LightBureau and Simon Fenton Partnership.

Winners for two other Pennine Lancashire towns – Accrington and Burnley – have already been announced, and the remaining three - Bacup, Clitheroe and Nelson - are being selected by judging panels headed by Stephen Hodder.

The Pennine Lancashire Squared competition is the brainchild of Yvette Livesey and her late partner, music mogul Anthony H Wilson, and was commissioned by Elevate on behalf of the Pennine Lancashire Leaders and Chief Executives (PLLACE).

The Landscape Institute, the chartered body for landscape architects, is running the competition, with the support of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The competition has received funding from the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and Arts Council England, and is being implemented by the Boroughs of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Ribble Valley and Rossendale, with support from Lancashire County Council. CABE Space is providing ongoing support for the development of Pennine Lancashire Squared.

Email: paull@landscapeinstitute.org


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