We have identified 3 key points to underpin our design methodology and response to the brief.
Firstly, we believe the history of a town is not the residue of the past but an important and precious layer that adds to the richness of place. “The present must embrace the achievements of the past in order to acquire temporal depth and associated perspective” (Francis Strauven in Aldo van Eyck Works, p.30). In our proposal we have relinked the past layers of the site with the present. Former buildings and street patterns are reinstated as a printed memory within the surfaces of the square. In providing a shadow of the former market square, the past is used to inform the future that is richer and acknowledges the complexity of our current world.
Secondly, we aim to provide an inclusive square that promotes celebration, interaction and contemplation. Aldo Van Eyk’s “looking in looking out” diagram is our point of reference for the spatial arrangement of the site. The sloping site topography provides a natural amphitheatre, however rather than have a single focal point the site is allowed to cascade down into the town. The terracing allows multiple opportunities for a variety of social and functional clusters. Maintaining flexibility is important for the informality and casual use of the square. Elements are introduced to the square to reinforce informality. Clad in blue glazed brick the amenity block is the site anchor. Large over scaled “urban sofas” create a sense of play and promotion of small gatherings. The stairs are interspersed with seating blocks similar to Indian stepped wells. Capitalising on the slope of the hill, the proposal includes a number of rain gardens where run-off water is directed from the hard surfaces into deliberate planting areas. These are interactive and intended to provide the opportunity for participatory community gardening, whilst forming part of a larger network of linked quality green spaces throughout Prescot. The design is intended to promote multiple uses including performances, markets, play and casual use. You can sit and watch or interact but always feel comfortable irrespective of age.
And thirdly, our proposal will help contribute to the creation of civic pride with a stronger sense of place by visually linking disparate existing buildings and urban elements. We propose to remove three trees on the axis with Sewell Street to open up the square and entry points along the street edge will be between carefully selected planting with seasonal colour. Such a move will provide a framed view of the cascading areas, better revealing the church steeple and memorial, culminating at the curved entry steps. Isolated and inward looking nodes will be linked with the greater Prescot context thereby acting as a plausible protagonist for social change.