The wreckage of a 1970s shopping centre will form the centrepiece of a central Nottingham development that will include a park and leisure space.
A striking design by Thomas Heatherwick, the creator of the 2012 Olympic cauldron, the Routemaster bus, and the Coal Drops Yard shopping redevelopment in London’s Kings Cross, stands at the centre of a £500m scheme which will include 750 new homes and a hotel as well as shops, offices, conference facilities and leisure space.
The Frame is a reimagined wreck of the former Broadmarsh shopping mall, which in artists impressions is depicted swathed in greenery, and hosting markets, leisure facilities such as a climbing wall and vast trampoline or events space for boxing or music.
About half of the Broadmarsh centre, which opened in 1975, was demolished amid redevelopment of the 20-acre site which was halted when its former owner, the retail property group Intu, went bust last year. The lease was taken on by Nottingham city council which launched a public consultation and steering committee to help decide on the future of the site. Members of the committee include Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project in Cornwall and Greg Nugent, a former director of the London 2012 Olympics committee.
Heatherwick said: “The challenge of what to do with the former Broadmarsh shopping centre has been a chance to think about the failure of our city centres. They should be about bringing people together, not just about retail. Rather than demolish the structure, we are proposing to keep the frame and breathe new life into it, creating a place that can hold the diversity and vibrancy that is so lacking from many city centres. The aim is to bridge between generations, communities, and cultures so that the new Broad Marsh [the historic name for the area] can reflect the true diversity of the city.”
The redevelopment is likely to be seen as a bellweather for major redevelopments of moribund shopping centres around the country which have been pushed aside by online shopping, out-of-town retail parks and increased interest in leisure activities, rather than buying physical stuff.
The Elephant & Castle shopping centre in south London is now a pile of dust; Stockton-on-Tees’ Castlegate shopping centre is scheduled to be demolished next year as part of plans to create an urban park; the Riverside centre in Shrewsbury is coming down under a plan for new housing, offices, cafes and a promenade; while both the Chilterns centre in High Wycombe and Nicholsons in Maidenhead are to be razed to build new homes.
David Mellen, leader of Nottingham council, welcomed Heatherwick’s design which he said included the key elements locals had asked for, including a “green heart” – a park – at the centre and enhanced access to key heritage sites, including the city’s network of caves.
“By proposing to make some use of the existing frame, reducing the waste and carbon emissions from new construction, it is sustainable, something which is very important for the city’s ambition to be the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2028. And it respects and promotes the city’s rich heritage by opening up views to the castle, enhancing the caves, one of the city’s hidden gems, and re-establishing old street patterns.”
Mellen said work would now begin to secure the investment needed to implement the scheme from public and private sector partners. He said doing so would “take time to get right” but major changes would become apparent soon with the opening up of part of the park.
The Guardian’s architecture critic Oliver Wainwright said Heatherwick’s design reflected an historic architectural interest in “ruin porn.”
“Thomas Heatherwick’s vision for Nottingham town centre could be straight out of a post-apocalyptic disaster movie, depicting the semi-ruined Broadmarsh shopping centre dripping with vines, as if reclaimed by nature.
”As ever with Heatherwick, the fairytale images present a beguiling, Tolkienian picture, but the test will be in the detail of how the structure is actually adapted and what uses it will contain. There is a danger it could end up being a greenwashing decoy, the novelty centrepiece of what otherwise appears to be a fairly bland commercial development around the rest of the site.”