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The Mayfield Imaginarium: Reflection

Architecture Unknown

March 2023



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

Following the current buzz that has hit Manchester in recent times is Depot Mayfield and the first new park in the city in a century and look back at when AU asked Manchester what it wanted the derelict site to become. For the readers that aren’t aware, Depot Mayfield, located across from Piccadilly Station was built in 1910 as a railway yard for Mayfield station, and used by the Royal Mail as a distribution centre until the 1980s, the site lay dormant for almost three decades. As part of a £1billion regeneration project lead by regen specialists U+I, Depot Mayfield currently provides a platform for a diverse programme of arts, music, industry, culture and community events in this unique found space showcasing Manchester’s industrial past. Along with the new park, there will be a raft of new homes, office and ‘cultural’ offerings, over the coming years.

It was not long ago that Architecture Unknown? When reading the poorly formed original SRF in 2016/17, decided to throw our hat in the ring. In collaboration with Hometown Plus, Manchester Sheld and Urbed, we felt that it was important to open a wider discussion around Manchester City Council's SRF and ran a series of workshops, games and open lectures to discuss alternative proposals that embraced user engagement. Thus, the Mayfield Imaginarium was born.

Smiling Man on Laptop

Participants modelling a new vision for Mayfield in plasticine

True Mancunian input was sought during this process. We asked people to generate ideas for what they want in our future city to be, what can Mayfield be. We aimed to incubate imaginative, considered and diverse aspirations and a pioneering approach for Mayfield through a series of six professional workshops and seven core activities; all of which spanned over a weekend. This garnered over 100 members of the public that attended and 423 responses from social media. The ‘Mayfield Imaginarium weekend’ transformed urban design into a series of ‘games’ including a cool wall to rate Manchester’s buildings and an importance wheel to gauge the relative priority of functions, a build-a-block Mayfield and a “What’s the Future?” comments board. We provoked the public to think big and bold.

Looking at today’s scheme that is undergoing, it is interesting to AU that there are so many similarities in approach to the function of the space. Prioritising the arts, start-ups and local production alongside the rejuvenation of the public park, all of which adds to a public realm that Manchester has long yearned for. It may have taken another decade or so to get there but hey, looks well good to us!

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