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The Mayfield Imaginarium: Redefining a Lost District

Architecture Unknown

November 2016



AU's artistic reinvention of Mayfield Train Depot based on the responses to our community consultation, planning games, workshops and talks undertaken as part of the Mayfield Imaginarium

The Mayfield Station and surrounding infrastructure was an integral cog in the transport heart of Manchester, but since its closure in the 60's became an abandoned ruin.

With its imminent rebirth by developers U+I in sight, volunteers from the Mayfield Imaginarium Collective sought to open the question of Mayfield’s future out to the people of Manchester. Over the course of two days of intense conversation focused on six fantastic community engagement workshops, data was gathered on Mancunians’ attitudes towards development and Mayfield’s place in that ongoing story. By asking creative questions we elicited creative answers that ranged from reusing the abandoned railway tracks as Manchester’s very own Highline Park, to redeveloping the existing station as an arts hub.

The two day event was a huge success with other popular games/exercises that ran in the background all day complimenting the workshops including a cool wall to rate Manchester’s buildings and an importance wheel to gauge the relative priority of functions ranging from healthcare and offices to tourism.

This fed into discussions surrounding the future forms and uses of these functions. We asked people to imagine how culture/tourism, housing, offices, green space and community infrastructure would change and successfully work for Manchester’s future citizens in 50 years and how we could prepare for these shifts. Think big, bold and hopefully was the overarching theme of the two days on that was captured and expressed by each of the six scintillating workshops that peppered the two days...

Smiling Man on Laptop

Participants modelling a new vision for Mayfield in plasticine

Day 1
The event started with Reece Singleton (Architectural Consultant) leading us on a journey through the Cognitive Mapping of Manchester. By challenging our memorised perceptual reading of Manchester, the workshop focused on analysing the urban signifiers on our routes into the city centre. By assessing the strength of the mnemonic imprint left by the city Reece drew a causal line to the need to make a readable city, one where way-finding was easy and defined by a strong cityscape. It was proposed that, as a hugely visible gateway site in Manchester, Mayfield Station had a responsibility to embody the highest quality design.

The critical importance of city planning for Mayfield Station was underscored by Mark Hammil (award winning Town Planner and Urbanist) with Transforming Cities. This workshop was a fun exercise to imagine priorities for Mayfield by analysing the successes and failures of other parts of Manchester. From this discussion we created a list of key requirements for the site to send to Manchester City Council and U+I.

In the late afternoon the plasticine and craft paper came out for Ghost Stations with David Chandler (Urbanist & Architectural Artist) who got the assembled people to explore the history of Mayfield Station and how its essential memory could be preserved and memorialised. People recreated their favourite artefact of the station and creatively reimagined the space in the future to place it within an as yet unbuilt urban landscape. The team and participants rounded off the first day with a drink and a celebration of the inspiring first half of the engagement programme

Day 2
Kicking off Sunday was artist Ash Van Dyke’s Creative Spaces Dreams and a lively debate on the future use of the derelict station building itself and how we could enable this vision. Following a PESTLE:V scorecard (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental and Value) participants explored the the realms of possibility that the site provides creating proposals that remained grounded in analytical reality. There was a real sense of hope at the end of the workshop that with the right vision and drive Mayfield Station had a bright civic future.

The ever present and never ending supply of plasticine and card reemerged for Vicky Payne’s Mayfield Masterplanning workshop. As a planner at URBED, Vicky used her experience to guide everyone through a typical URBED city planning engagement exercise where everyone got stuck in to reimagining the 24 hectare Mayfield Site as a newly completed piece of the city. Not letting the traditional pastel colours of the plasticine distract us the results were spectacular including a new 25-30 storey office tower next to Piccadilly Station, a new Manchester Music Pioneers Museum and strong connections to the nearby Piccadilly Basin development area.

Rounding out an unparalleled two days of fun and excitement was Sally Titterington of Living in Future Ecologies Research (LiFE), showcasing some of the fantastic work done at Manchester Metropolitan University titled Opiso Visions. Opiso, an Ancient Greek word, described the state of walking backwards into the future, reliant only on past knowledge for information. Transposing this concept to Mayfield asked questions of us, not only about where we are headed as a city and a society, but also about what we will need to get there and why. There couldn’t have been a more fitting description to summarise everything the Mayfield Imaginarium sought to question and our hopes for a more inclusive process to this critical development. Everyone has a future, we are all heading somewhere, shouldn’t we have the right to say what we’ll need along the way?

Read more on our Mayfield Imaginarium project page and download the FULL REPORT

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