Sustainable public realm celebrates city’s status as European Green Capital

Grant Associates completes final phase of work at Bristol Harbourside

The final phase of public realm landscape design for Bristol’s award-winning Harbourside development has been completed by landscape architect Grant Associates for developer Crest Nicholson.

The completion of the 15-year regeneration project comes as Bristol celebrates its status as European Green Capital in 2015 – an accolade awarded for the city’s outstanding commitment to sustainability, creativity, culture and innovation.

Bristol Harbourside is a £120m mixed-use development on the edge of the city's floating harbour, which has regenerated the heart of Bristol's historic waterfront.

Sustainable landscape design has played a key role in the overall scheme, says Grant Associates. Working closely with masterplan architect Cullinan Studio, it has transformed the derelict 6.6-hectare brownfield site of former docks and gas works into a vibrant collection of new streetscapes, waterfront walks, public open space and a sustainable urban drainage system.

Grant Associates says that its public realm landscape design is based on a ‘strong sustainable narrative that draws on the waterfront location’. Highlights include the creation of a series of spaces and routes designed to enhance the floating harbour’s wider public realm, including new public squares and tree-lined avenues, and harbourside moorings with a new harbour inlet.

Views and access to the waterfront have been opened up, in particular those of the cathedral and the previously inaccessible Harbour Walk, strengthening the site’s visual connections with the city and bringing the waterfront back to life.

The sustainable urban drainage element of the scheme is designed to ‘celebrate the passage of rainwater from the roofs of the buildings to the harbour’, and is visible through a series of collection dishes, channels and rills, as well as irrigating planting along the route.

Floating reed beds along the harbour edge filter rainwater and surface water before it enters the harbour. These reed beds have also created valuable habitat opportunities and provide an attractive waterside setting. Other habitat opportunities include an extensive green wall, fronting onto the central public square.

The Brunel Mile, a key public walkway from Temple Meads Station to the SS Great Britain, is now realised in full. The new Millennium Promenade has opened up the final stretch of this route, explains Grant Associates, ‘helping to re-energise the harbour setting with access to the water’s edge providing an appropriate approach and setting to Brunel's historic passenger steam ship’.

A comprehensive programme of public art has also been established with internationally renowned artists including Tim Knowles, Richard Box, Janice Kerbal and Daphne Wright working to integrate individual pieces with the wider landscape.

‘We set out to create a leading example of sustainable design, including sustainable urban drainage and water attenuation in a creative and imaginative way that enhance local species diversity and ecological richness,’ said Grant Associates’ senior associate Andrew Haines.

Debbie Aplin, managing director of Crest Nicholson Regeneration, says that the way in which public realm and open spaces are incorporated into modern developments is as important as buildings: ‘As regeneration experts, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to ensure that the role of public space is carefully and thoughtfully planned. It is clear, that when properly designed and delivered, public realm can offer lasting economic, social, cultural, health and environmental benefits for generations.

The work undertaken by Grant Associates on the Bristol Harbourside scheme has, she adds, skilfully re-connected the city centre with its historic waterfront. ‘They have done an excellent job bringing together an eclectic mix of public art, heritage, open spaces and green initiatives to perfectly reinforce the city’s status as European Green Capital 2015.’

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