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All Change on the Tracks

Peter JenkinsAs head of our transport sector in the north region and part of the urbanism team, Peter Jenkins leads projects over a wide range of sectors, including rail and bus stations, residential developments, mixed use and public schemes.

Rail transport has been resurgent over the past two decades in parallel with the regeneration of our city centres. BDP has engaged with this through an ever-increasing portfolio of rail-related projects. Our designs for Manchester Victoria and Nottingham Stations both combine restored historic fabric with bold, modern structures to create distinctive, vibrant places for the cities they serve.

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The post Industrial Revolution expansion of our major cities can be read in their fabric through concentric rings of development, subdivided by canals, railways and ring roads. Invariably, a city’s architectural evolution can be interpreted as one passes between these defining lines. However, industrial decline led to contraction back towards the city’s original core, leaving behind these rings of infrastructure to become negative, disconnected spaces. The recent resurgence of many cities has led to development expanding outwards once again. Creative solutions to our transport infrastructure can help overcome the barriers formed by viaducts and re-energise redundant land.

Our recent work in Manchester has engaged with many of these issues. At Victoria Station, in order to increase rail capacity and feed the city’s growth, there were two primary functional requirements—expansion of the city’s tram network and establishment of the Northern Hub Rail Infrastructure Project which will greatly improve communication between the major cities of the north. However in addition to satisfying these needs, a new space has been created which meets the aspirations of an increasingly vibrant city.

This grand, multi-functional area aims to give visitors an impression of the city’s identity and ambition as well as putting a spring in the step of daily commuters. In addition to serving the trams/trains and acting as a primary route into the adjacent arena, it is a public space for all to enjoy which is bathed in daylight and sheltered from the worst of the elements.

Our rail related work in the centre of Manchester continues with three further Northern Hub projects, including the Ordsall Chord, which will ease the current rail bottleneck in the city and further improve rail connections across the north. As with Victoria, the intention is to create contemporary spaces which confidently express the city’s aspirations just as our forebears did in the nineteenth century. As all three sites have upper level tracks, in each case the two levels are being considered as physically separate and conceptually distinct. At ground level, the imperative is to contribute to street life and provide a catalyst for further regeneration. Meanwhile on the floor above, innovative structural solutions reflecting the scale and dynamism of travel will be the dominant theme.

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Transport related projects invariably present the opportunity to develop bold structural solutions and create dramatic new city spaces. Stations are gateway buildings which provide the all-important first impression of a community. In Manchester with its heritage of fine rail related historic infrastructure, existing buildings are often also incorporated into the solution. These can contribute much to the creation of unique and special new places within this resurgent and vibrant city.

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