On a wet Saturday in September, the MLA students transformed Heron Street in Hulme into a ‘Living Exhibition’. A very short, unassuming residential street was the scene of an exciting experiment to demonstrate ideas for how this and similar places might be turned from dull, car-dominated, dead spaces, into vibrant, sociable, safe and sustainable environments.
This was the culmination of 6 month’s work by MLA1 students, in collaboration with Manchester City Council, Squareyard Landscape Architects, Hulme-St Mary’s Neighbourhood Forum and a range of other supporting companies. The project identified strategies for turning the street into a safe space for play and sociability as well as a greener, healthier, more resilient living environment. This was an urban experiment to test ideas which might be extended to the rest of the neighbourhood and beyond.
The Living Exhibition aimed to bring these ideas to life and allow people to experience the potential of the transformation for themselves through building a simulacrum of the proposals. MLA students spent their first week on the course working intensively to prepare for the event and, despite Manchester’s weather gods doing their worst, the event was a huge success, with around 300 people attending.
With cars eliminated, a framework of gabion walls, trees and shrub planting instantly transformed the streetscape. 8 companies and organisations exhibited products and ideas, the neighbourhood forum carried out a successful consultation, and the students’ more ambitious visions were projected against a wall. The whole thing only lasted a few hours but, for a short time, local residents could experience how it might feel to live in a non-car dominated, safe, green street. Let’s hope this event proves to be the catalyst for a real long-term transformation of the streets of this area and across the city.