Pavilion in Piccadilly Gardens

Manchester

M1 1AF

 

Tadao Ando 2002

 

Ando's pavilion in Piccadilly Gardens is a gently curved concrete wall, 130 meters long, with a covered space on its concave side providing coffee shops and shelter. The pavilion is a major element in an overall redevelopment of the garden square in 2002, to coincide with the Manchester-hosted Commonwealth Games.

 

 

The redevelopment included restoring the gardens to ground level (they had previously been sunken, created out of the foundations of the former Manchester Royal Infirmary), and creating an overall arrangement of fountains, paths and planting that has made the square a popular summer recreation spot. One unattractive feature of the square had been the presence of Manchester's main bus and tram hub along the southwest side. Ando's pavilion shuts off this transport hub from the gardens, creating an enclosed space for the square itself.

 

 

The wall itself is made from Ando's trademark poured-in-place concrete, in regular 2x1 blocks created by plywood formwork. In Ando's work these normally have the standard Japanese size of 1.8m x 0.9m, but this was enlarged in the UK to 2m x 1m. As you would expect from Ando, the concrete wall was designed and constructed with impressive care and attention to detail:

"At least one test panel was rejected and demolished in the attempt to achieve concrete work of satisfactory appearance. It is clear that such work (involving 90-degree arises, correspondence of the formwork imprints on both sides of a wall incorporating insulation, and no coping) is demanding: in the steel-fixing and formwork-construction; and in the specification, pouring, vibrating and making-good of the concrete. Ando reputedly involves several revolving teams of skilled carpenters in fraternal, competitive, precision formwork-construction. Ultimately, each 6m-long section of the 5m-high wall was cast in one pour, using a specially developed self-compacting concrete." (Steven Morant, Building Design, September 2002)

Given all that care, it is a shame that the wall is now maintained in such a shabby state, sandwiched (on my visit) between an industrial cleaning machine on one side and gray plastic urinals on the other.

 

 

Simon Glynn 2009


How to visit

 

The pavilion is on the southwest side of Piccadilly Gardens, in the center of Manchester.

 

Piccadilly Gardens Station, on Parker Street, is a major tram and bus stop hub.