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Urban Design Compendium

Case Study 041 - Rejuvenating a public space

041 - The Old Market Square, Nottingham

The Old Market Square in Nottingham shows how good design can help to rejuvenate an inaccessible and unpopular public space to create a popular destination and a focal point for events.

The Old Market Square is one of the largest public squares in the UK. It has strong historic and cultural significance for the city as a meeting place and a location of local events. However, by the late 20th century, people increasingly avoided the square as they felt it to be inaccessible and unwelcoming. Nottingham City Council recognized a new layout was required that would provide unhindered access for all, create a flexible event space, would allow activities to spill out into the space and would attract pedestrians by virtue of its design.

The winning design introduced new diagonal routes to provide direct access to the centre of the square and improve access to all other parts of the city centre. Terraces of coloured granite blocks delineate level changes. Their tapered form accommodates rows of benches, planters and water features, set around a large unobstructed area for markets and events. All lighting is concealed, except for masts that create a range of lighting moods and support temporary trusses needed for events.

Since opening, the square has hosted some of the largest and best attended events ever staged in the city. They have included free concerts, firework displays, an ice rink, fine food fair and a bulb and flower market. The day to day impact of the new square has been immediate and it has become a well-used space at lunchtimes and early evenings, in addition to a popular attraction for tourists at the weekend.

Other Information

UDC2 Section - Integrated Designg the Seed  

The removal of barriers to movement has been key to the success of the new Nottingham Market Square.

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