City Park in Bradford, designed by Gillespies landscape architects and urban designers on behalf of Bradford Council and supported by a multi-disciplinary design team, was officially launched on March 24th 2012. The landmark public space contains the largest city-centre water feature anywhere in the UK, a 4,000sq m mirror pool, and the UK’s tallest urban fountain which reaches a spectacular 100ft.
City Park stems from a city centre masterplan drawn up in 2003 on Bradford’s behalf which provided a vision of opening up the city centre and creating a public space that would act as a focal point. Bradford Council took the lead role in turning this vision into a viable plan and Gillespies, Arup, Sturgeon North, Atoll and The Fountain Workshop developed this early concept into a detailed design which was submitted for planning permission and funding in 2007 before construction started in late 2009.
The final design builds on the original vision of a city centre for Bradford and has created a flexible dynamic centrepiece in the form of a vibrant 2.4ha public space including the mirror pool, fountains and public art. The park centres on the Grade I Listed, 19th Century City Hall and helps to connect major visitor attractions like the National Media Museum and the Alhambra Theatre with transport hubs and the rest of the city centre. It enhances the overall image of Bradford and helps create a landscape for investment by setting Bradford apart from other cities.
The development and implementation of City Park’s design by Gillespies from the original masterplan has been founded on three fundamental design concepts:
• HINTERLAND: Bradford’s setting is that of a city surrounded by visible hills and countryside. The design for City Park seeks to suggest the meeting of urban and rural. Gillespies wanted the idea of hinterland to reference the outside towns and villages looking into the City, and the City looking outwards. This concept is borne out not only by the park’s design and built forms, but also how City Park interacts with Bradford’s people – both those within the city, and those on the edges attracted into the city by its regeneration.
• WATER: The unifying element of City Park’s design is water. Water provides a deep-rooted connection to Bradford’s industrial energy.
• MIRROR: City Park’s space provides a place to reflect. Its mirror pool provides an architectural mirror to Bradford’s city centre, skies and weather. The mirror pool brings this public space alive and provides a mirror for events, people and culture.
“We designed City Park as a beautiful public space with water at its heart. This new centrepiece for Bradford acts as a pivotal focal point, and gives Bradford a new postcard identity with the unique dynamic mirror pool and high quality landscape. Its magnificent grand public spaces promise to delight both local people and visitors.” said Tom Walker, Partner and City Park Design Team leader
Mirror pool and water features
At the heart of the completed City Park is a huge water feature, the 76m by 58m, 4,000sq m reflective mirror pool. Testament to the design by Gillespies engineers Arup and The Fountain Workshop, the mirror pool is a multi-functional space. The body of water can drain down fully to provide a large-scale events venue. The water level can also be lowered slightly to reveal causeways, allowing people to walk through the pool between the fountains. The causeway also divides the water into three pools which can be drained in any combination to provide a smaller event space, with water as a backdrop.
Despite the size of the pool, the water is very shallow (220mm max.) changing depth very gradually, which brings benefits for sustainability and functionality for events and safety. The fountains have an elaborate series of pre-set programmes that change depending on the day, the weather and local events. The sequence of fountains will respond to the daily rhythms of the city, marking times such as when people travel to and from work or take their lunch break.
The ability to fully drain the pool on a daily basis simplifies the operational and maintenance of the pool. This was a key factor in the design development. It removes the need for specialist cleaning equipment at ground level reducing the annual maintenance costs.