People are congratulating themselves on their sensitivity to the archaeology
they were about to destroy. Yes, congratulations. When the new building is a 9-storey car park costing thirty million pounds, you ask yourself “Where is our society going?” The answer is “Shopping, in our gas-guzzler.” Eheu!
A £30 million, nine-storey, 2,000-space car park for Leicester’s new Highcross shopping centre has demonstrated profound respect of the ancient past.
Pick Everard architects worked closely with construction contractor Norwest Holst Limited (part of VINCI PLC) in Hammerson’s ambitious £350m Highcross development in Leicester.
During a mandatory archaeological survey of the site, University of Leicester archaeologists unearthed the remains of a Roman townhouse more than 2,000 years old and discovered the remains of a 15th century church, St Michael’s.
Because of the historic importance and rarity of these finds, the fundamental design of the car park’s substructure and pilings had to be amended.
The stunning end result is an archaeologically significant site and a uniquely designed contemporary car park in harmonious tandem, open to the public since September.
Pick Everard also worked with structural engineers to ensure the protection of the historical finds, not least so as to be able to take advantage of improved excavation and analysis techniques in the future.
But in addition to the challenge of working around this unexpected dimension, Pick Everard faced another hurdle – developing detailed designs for the three-dimensional masterpiece concept which mirrored the adjacent John Lewis flagship building in terms of imagination, aesthetic creativity and overall appearance.
Ironically, the car park was always designed with Leicester’s past in mind – a one-off bespoke mesh cladding in a hexagonal weaved pattern, the first of its kind to be used on such a scale – was chosen to echo Leicester’s old textile industry.
Pick Everard architect Chris Gilbert, said: “It was insprational working alongside Norwest Holst on this prestgious and high quality design project which has had such an enormous impact on the city.
“Our brief was taking concept designs and turning these into detailed designs that could be be built, while protecting Leicester’s proud heritage. At Pick Everard, we are committed to preserving the city’s history, as much as we are to its future.”
The Highcross John Lewis car park won ‘Large Scheme of the Year’ Award in the recent 2008 ProCon Leicestershire Property & Construction Awards.