The Hull City Centre project was a once in a generation opportunity to change the face of the city and use the quality and user experience of public space to drive the city’s cultural and economic ambitions. This project was a major part of Hull’s time as UK City of Culture in 2017, which provided an urgency and ambition to deliver a major investment in the city’s fabric, but also an opportunity to create an intrinsic link between the city’s culture and its public spaces. The city centre needed to become somewhere that local people could feel proud but also to experience and take part in culture – from every day street culture to major programmed events.
Trinity Square marks the centre of the city’s Old Town. It provides the setting for the Grade I Listed Hull Minster and Trinity House and is home to a strong community centred around the church. The space had suffered from a lack of maintenance, over-dominant highway design and a shortage of space for church parking, that meant cars parked on the ledger stones within the church wall. re-form agreed with Historic England and the Diocese of York, to remove the wall and create a large flexible space that would support the community and provide a valuable place to host events for the church and the city council. The space is now a sensitively designed place that celebrates, rather than competes with the intricacy of the Minster facade and keeps those experiential qualities of calmness and tranquillity which define it. Existing Plane trees have been incorporated into the design, retaining some maturity and the environmental benefits of dappled shade and shelter to the seating. Four corner benches frame a space that contains eight mirror pools, each of which reflect a different detail of the Minster as people walk through the space. The mirror pools are engaging in different ways – enticing people to touch, walk through them or stare at the occasional pulse which creates beautiful patterns in the surface. The square was built atop a medieval graveyard. The scheme was planned carefully to minimise disruption to the sub-surface, and construction was undertaken alongside a team of archaeologists who exhumed some of the shallowest remains for relocation to the Minster’s crypt.
The site conditions caused a particular challenge in installing the eight 4×4 m mirror pools, each of which needed to be perfectly level. Specialist stone masons worked the sandstone surface within a 2 mm tolerance from each corner, to allow the 4 mm deep water to be consistent. Around the perimeter of each pool, the 1×1 m square flags have been cut in 3D to connect the levels back into the main paved surface. This means that when the water is turned off, they become invisible and the surface across the square retains its integrity.
New businesses have now opened around the square allowing more people to occupy the space and create a significant destination in the city. The space is used more intensively for cultural events and installations due to its flexibility. Recent examples include; A Hall for Hull – a RIBA winning installation by Pezo von Ellrichhausen and artist Felice Varini, Take Flight – a performance by the Royal Ballet and Where Do We Go From Here – A sculptural lighting installation by artist Jason Bruges. The square also hosts a monthly food market and is used regularly by the church for smaller occasions.
Trinity Square was used extensively throughout 2017 and played a pivotal role in the discovery and celebration of the city’s culture. Martin Green, CEO of Hull 2017 described this link;
‘‘People are taking ownership of their city spaces and developing an appetite for exploration, which is leading them to discover new favourite places. Communities and groups realise that the spaces around them are theirs to make use of, with new events, festivals and shows popping up with greater regularity. The success of such events has been indivisible from the public realm works. The work has provided us with amazing spaces to deliver cultural events and our programme has inspired people to see their city in a new light. This is a magnificent legacy for the city… The new public realm will be here for a very long time.”
The wider project has proved to be a huge success in terms of cultural, social and economic change. Since the completion of the first phase there have been 131 new businesses open and an 11% increase in footfall across the city centre, with some of the key pedestrian streets showing a significant increase. The redevelopment of Trinity Square helped create a 12.3 % increase in sales across all retail sectors and a 22% increase in the food and beverage sector – one of the council’s key targets to attract more families as well as broadening its night time economy. Major city centre attractions had a 10-15% rise in visitor numbers and the Ferens Art Gallery and Maritime Museum reported their highest visitor numbers since records began.
Location: Hull, United Kingdom
Design firm: re-form landscape architecture
Design year: 2015-2016
Area: 3,500 m2
Budget: £2.9 m
Street furniture: Logic and Pearl Green Engineering
Consultants: Engineer – Arup
Water feature specialist: Fountain Workshop
Cost Consultant: Gardiner and Theobold
Artist: Mel Chantry
Text credit: re-form landscape architecture limited
Image credit: Neil Nicklin and Dan Wheeler (City of Culture)