The Field, Hardman Square, Manchester

Sheppard Robson Architects approached LAYER to collaborate on a project to create a green space in Manchester. Allied London had issued a brief that Hardman Square, Spinningfields was to be home to a different kind of commercial offer and the existing space was to be completely refurbished. Whilst the studio was only six months young, this invitation gave us the opportunity and responsibility to design and deliver what would become a new Mancunian green sanctuary.

LAYER began to review the existing constraints and opportunities the space presented; the landscape was to be constructed over a basement car park with weight restrictions. There was a requirement to retain the existing mature trees and not unsurprisingly, a defined budget. The square was constructed 13 years ago and featured an expanse of grey granite and monolithic water features – it was a hard, corporate space that struggled to inspire joy on any wet Mancunian day. The space was often overlooked by the public as somewhere to gather, despite successfully catering for crowds during events. Despite this, Hardman Square became synonymous with temporary events, pop-up structures and cemented itself as a key destination in Manchester’s urban environment.

During a sit-in, ‘space syntax’ style analysis of the area on a warm sunny morning, it was noted that very few people cut-through the square, opting to hug the perimeter buildings. We proposed to create ‘friction’ along primary thoroughfares, and to create pockets of interest within verdant planting to attract people into the central green space.
The inspiration behind the new public realm stemmed from Eleanor Byrom, a local resident during the late 16th and 17th century. She was a member of the wealthy Byrom family who used to tend to the native flora in the field opposite her home, now the location of Hardman Square.

The realised scheme sees the retention of the mature Oak trees to the west. Moving east, the planting becomes less understory and more field edge; the trees become less dense and the planting shifts to those that require more light, and therefore grow taller. Moving further east into the field, a meadow of wildflowers was proposed to bring an explosion of colour throughout the summer months.

The woodland to field edge planting concept is made up of ornamental Grasses, Ferns and Hostas, which were chosen for seasonal interest, and to ensure the space has a ‘soft’ structure during the winter months. Multi-stem Birch and Hazel trees further contribute to the vegetation at the human scale, transforming the space from all-hard surfacing to a rich, verdant series of green spaces.

Cut into the dense understorey planting are a series of routes and spaces, which form pockets of organically shaped seating opportunities, for users to seek respite. The wrap-around seats allow for individuals and groups alike to gather and get away from a bustling urban environment.
There was an opportunity within the proposals to introduce a warm and varying palette of textures and materials. Granite is commonly used across the Spinningfields estate and is used in ‘The Field’ for durability and continuity, however manifesting as warm tone setts rather than grey slabs.

The people of Manchester have warmly received ‘The Field’. Like other cities around the globe the trend is for Manchester’s city centre population to continue it’s increasing trajectory and the new residents of the city will demand access to good quality green spaces. We feel this project illustrates what can be achieved in an existing bustling city context, by creating respite and peace in our hectic, always connected world. Evidence that re-using existing infrastructure with modest budgets can achieve outstanding results.


  • Project Name

    The Field, Hardman Square, Manchester

  • Location

    Hardman Square, Manchester

  • Category

    Public realm

  • Landscape Architect

    Layer (Landscape Architecture) Ltd

  • Client

    Allied London

  • Brief

    In the summer of 2016 LAYER were approached by Sheppard Robson Architects to collaborate on a project which had the potential to create Manchester’s newest green space. The Client, Allied London had issued a brief that Hardman Square in Spinningfields was to be refurbished and the hard, corporate granite surfaces were to be done away with. Spinningfields required a more grown up space. A true green space for the people Manchester. Not just some worn out grass, but real plants and mature trees; a verdant landscape like no other in the City Centre. LAYER was in its first six months of trading, and up against the tried an tested names of landscape design in Manchester. The response to the brief and initial concept ideas inspired the Client to take a leap of faith and appoint the 'new kids on the block'.

  • Awards

    Finalist, Landscape Institute Awards 2019


  • Project Team

    Landscape Architect: LAYER Client: Allied London Architect: Sheppard Robson Civil Engineer: ROK Consulting QS: Gardiner & Theobald Project manager: Gardiner & Theobald Main contractor: BAM Landscape contractor: Ground Control

  • Local planning authority or government body

    Manchester City Council

  • Year Completed


  • Project Size

    0.15 ha

  • Contract Value


  • Layer (Landscape Architecture) Ltd

    Registered Practice Membership
  • Approximate Map Location


    Hardman Square, Manchester

  • Share