Exchange Square, Manchester

Design, supply and installation of granite kerbs, reclaimed Westmorland slate and Yorkstone paving forming a striking water feature, replacing and upgrading the original ‘stepping-stone’ design by landscape architect Marta Schwartz, completed in 1999 following the Manchester bombings.

Exchange Square has become one of Manchester’s major public spaces, bordered by the Corn Exchange, Arndale Centre, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, and close to the Printworks entertainment complex. The square is a main pedestrian route from Victoria Station which transports thousands of visitors and commuters into the heart of the city.

The project, managed by The Fountain Company on behalf of Manchester City Council’s planning and landscape teams, retains the main features of the original design, carefully utilising the existing random slate stepping-stones by incorporating them into three raised 20m long plinths, surrounded by large section solid natural granite kerbs, fixed curved on plan. The popular stainless steel tap funnels were retained in a separate feature.

The new design is attractively lit with colour-changing LED lighting, animating a series of vertical water jets, running on a 15-minute cycle between 7am and 11pm. Its energy efficiency has been improved by introducing a new pump and filtration system, and the raised features now have good resilience to damage and provide useful pedestrian seating on summer days.

The polished Kobra grey granite was sourced from Hardscape Ltd, and Manchester based Mather & Ellis Ltd assisted with the cutting down and refurbishment of the existing slate, which was fixed in resin in the original pattern, forming a flush top to the features. The surrounding paving was upgraded using Naylor Hill Hard Yorkstone and flame textured grey granite bands. The base of the funnel feature was inlaid with flame textured black granite.

The work on the new water feature was funded by an investment of £823k from Manchester City Council.