Accrington Town Square and Interpretive Artwork

The site is located in front of Accrington Town Hall and Market Hall, Blackburn Road, Accrington, Lancashire. The primary aim of the project was to stimulate regeneration by creating a community heart reinforcing the existing fantastic but forgotten urban fabric:
- The proposals for the town square were to deliver a high quality paving surface in local stone to: reveal the quality of the surrounding Victorian architecture; and create a space for events to take place.
- The aim of the artwork was to remember the past but also instil confidence in a community that may not always relate to today’s world.

The landscape architect led the project team, public realm design, community engagement, concept and content of the interpretive artwork and design of the accent lighting of the Town Hall and Market Hall. Hyndburn Council was client and funded the project with a contribution from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The public realm is simple and elegant, revealing the Victorian architecture which is further highlighted by accent lighting. Fifty-two events are scheduled in the square for the first year of operation including an opening on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.

The most exciting part of the project was telling the town’s story. Six ‘Duck Board’ benches rise from a ‘trench line’ of paving, each bench wrapping around a vertical granite slab that act as twelve stone canvases for the interpretive artwork.

Three small animal statues relating to the town’s history sit next to a relevant bench. The scale, position and form of the statues was designed to engage with children, drawing adults over to read the interpretation pieces and hopefully explain them to their children, though often this can be the other way around.

The aim of the artwork was not to evoke pride, but confidence to be part of today’s world and maybe even change it. The story aimed to be inclusive, emphasizing that every family in the town has migrated there, whether in the Industrial Revolution or more recently, the community evolves.

We have submitted a video, produced by the client, where a resident talks about the engaging and accessible way the story is told: 'When it’s not tucked away in a book or museum and you might be sat down with your Grandad, Auntie or whatever, you go “what’s all this about?” so the Pals, Accrington, the history of our town, that’s a great tale to tell everybody about…In a square, all those conversations can take place over a nice cup of tea and just remember about how our little town has made a big impact on the world'

Through early engagement with stakeholders we identified that not everyone wanted to focus entirely on the story of the Accrington Pals. There are thousands of stories in any town and these can be told from lots of different perspectives, so we started the consultation exercise asking 'What story do you want us to tell?' using a matrix to narrow down what period in history and preferred themes, the story should cover. The results informed both the nature and scope of the story, further rounds of consultation and engagement refined the details of the story. It was important to have an audit trail whilst developing the artwork content to illustrate the origins of the narrative.

The benches were designed as social spaces, each seating area 2.5m long and 2m wide, facilitating group and informal seating. The interpretive artwork start’s conversations whilst the animal statues attract children, initiating engagement with the story told in the artwork.

Overview

  • Project Name

    Accrington Town Square and Interpretive Artwork

  • Location

    Accrington, Lancashire

  • Category

    Heritage, culture, art

  • Landscape Architect

    IBI Group UK Ltd

  • Client

    Hyndburn Borough Council

  • Brief

    Accrington is a small, struggling, post-industrial town in northern England. IBI were commissioned to design a new Town Square outside the Victorian Town Hall and Market Hall. The aims of the project were: - Create a new town square as a platform for regeneration: socially, culturally and physically, funded by Hyndburn Borough Council - Through interpretive artwork, commemorate the sacrifice of the Accrington Pals’ in the First World War, funded by a Heritage Lottery Grant The Town lacked a civic space, this was a relatively narrow area, 26m x 100m, that had always been a road so it was a challenge to create something that felt like a square. It is situated in front of the historic Town Hall and Market Hall (north side of the space) with a line of historic shops, on the south side of the space. The Town Hall and Market Hall are well used and in good condition but little activity spills out into the public realm. The shops were in need of repair and largely vacant, there is a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant for works to the shops, associated with the town square improvements, so far, this has been partially taken up. The road was only open to bus traffic.

  • Awards

    Finalist, Landscape Institute Awards 2019

Details

  • Project Team

    IBI Group: Lead and public realm and lighting design, lead on interpretive artwork Client: Hyndburn Borough Council and Lancashire County Council Smiling Wolf: Graphic Design of Interpretive Artwork Contractor: NMS Ltd Stone Artwork and Street Furniture Fabrication: Hardscape Artscape Mott MacDonald: Transport Planning and Engineers

  • Local planning authority or government body

    Hyndburn Borough Council

  • Year Completed

    2018

  • Project Size

    3 ha

  • Contract Value

    £1.5m

  • IBI Group UK Ltd

    Registered Practice Membership
  • Approximate Map Location

    Location

    Accrington, Lancashire

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