In a pilot scheme led by the National Trust and designed by Twelve Architects, Castlefield Viaduct has been transformed into a free-to-access urban green space. Built in 1892, the Grade II Listed Viaduct has stood unchanged for years. Marrying the city’s industrial heritage with a modern urban park concept, the transformation reclaims and celebrates the viaduct’s place in Manchester’s past, present and future.
Responding to a need raised by the pandemic, the scheme addresses inequalities in access to nature in urban areas, by providing an opportunity for people to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of green spaces.
Feedback from the community will shape the vision for the second phase of the project: the permanent regeneration of the viaduct.
The heritage of the viaduct and its landscape have directly informed the design and concept, with the use of materials that reference its industrial character and the red brick of the surrounding area.
The vision was to reimagine the viaduct as a space for people to relax in nature while immersed in its history. Minimal construction allows the original structure to be showcased, whilst features such as planters and growing plots are strategically placed to frame the long-distance views of the landscape.
The park creates a healthier neighbourhood for local residents, by providing access to nature within an urban area. It also creates a new walking route to support active travel. The scheme has received a positive response from the community, who have shaped and activated the space.
Developed with sustainability in mind, the park demonstrates the National Trust’s commitment to protecting the environment. Designed to be temporary, the project minimises waste and encourages re-use, as 80% of materials will be demountable and repurposed. Materials have been sourced to meet National Trust criteria for responsible procurement and to avoid wastage. The viaduct has been shortlisted for several awards and was recently ‘highly commended’ in the GM Chamber Building of the Year Award. The award recognises impact on the community, importance for urban regeneration, environmental enhancement and contribution to urban design. It has also been shortlisted for the Pineapple Awards 2023, which recognises excellence in placemaking and urban renewal.
The project provides substantial societal benefits, positively impacting factors including: health and wellbeing; tourism; biodiversity and nature; culture; heritage; learning; community and green jobs.
The vision was to transform the viaduct into an urban greenspace above the busy city. The main challenge was to transition from hard, grey metal into a soft, green oasis, preserving the heritage fabric of the Grade II Listed structure.
The project is unique in its focus on the past, present, and future. Not only does it give a historic structure new life, but a new function as a community space. Visitors experience the pilot scheme in three parts, exploring the viaduct that ‘is’ and ‘could be.’ Entering through a welcome area, visitors are presented with a green wall that obstructs their view ahead. Past the screen is the next area, where minimal architectural intervention showcases the existing structure.
In the third zone, visitors imagine the viaduct that ‘could be.’ It features a garden with plants contained in brick red steel planters, a nod to the industrial heritage of the area. Their placement mimics the effect of objects rhythmically passing, as they would when travelling by train. This area also houses a growing area where city partners exhibit installations. The journey ends as visitors view the remaining untouched viaduct through a large window, to imagine the possibilities of its future.
Duncan Laird, Head of Urban Places at the National Trust says: This project will “bring new life to the viaduct, establishing its place in this vibrant area of the city. The National Trust and its wider team, including Twelve Architects, took a collegiate approach to Castlefield Viaduct’s design development, which has resulted in a high-quality finished project. We look forward to hearing what the public have to say about the future of the space.”
Twelve Architects & Masterplanners is an international architectural practice, creating distinctive and memorable designs for projects across a range of sectors globally. Established in 2012, Twelve has designed and delivered landmark buildings that have won numerous awards and have a combined construction value in excess of £1 billion.