Freemens Meadow

Blanc de Bierges products were specified extensively by landscape architect Capita Lovejoy Birmingham to provide a cost-effective and cohesive design solution for the public realm areas of Freemen’s Meadow, an extensive residential development in the heart of Leicester by Barratt East Midlands. The landscape scheme has been featured in a number of magazines and the following information is edited from two articles from Public Sector Landscape & Equipment.

A wide variety of standard three-dimensional products complemented by bespoke wall units were used extensively on the project.

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Detailed Integration

In planning Freemens Meadow, a high-density housing scheme close to Leicester city centre, Barratt East Midlands recognised that a well-designed public realm was the key to unlocking the site’s potential.

Planning permission was subsequently granted for 653 units on the 11 hectare brownfield site on the River Soar, and Capita Lovejoy was commissioned to undertake the detailed design of the public area for Phase 1. This was carried out in 2005 and the remaining phases will be developed over the next few years.

Capita Lovejoy collaborated with Blanc de Bierges and Louis Poulsen to develop a feature wall/lighting strategy to illuminate the urban square and for remaining public areas. It was decided that Blanc de Bierges would supply a wide variety of standard 3D products, complemented by bespoke elements. These were the lighting units designed to sit at the base of stepped terraces and as ‘public art’ features within the residential boundary walls. Designed to change colour, the lighting added definition to the Blanc de Bierges materials, highlighting their colour and texture. Alice Cooper, Capita Lovejoy’s project landscape architect, comments:

“We initially provided two design solutions: the first was a standard blockwork wall with facing treatment; the second involved specially produced Blanc de Bierges units which would ensure that quality and design integrity were maintained during the construction process. The latter meant upfront costs but was considered much more efficient to assemble on site.”

“During the design process, I met with Blanc de Bierges at regular intervals to produce the actual wall unit sizes as well as the full set of working/construction details needed. In the process I dealt with value engineering solutions to achieve the original design concept, thereby saving money. I then introduced the product to Barratt and further meetings took place to secure the product in the scheme.”

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Technical harmony

Capita Lovejoy facilitated a number of workshops to achieve a successful integration between the Blanc de Bierges and Louis Poulsen products – two significant elements of the overall scheme. Indeed, the technical solution to the installation of the light fitment into the wall was a complete success.

In addition to the wall units, Blanc de Bierges supplied a wide variety of creamy buff-coloured products from its system of more than 10,000 modular, integrated components. These included tapered paving setts, paving slabs, straight and radial corduroy paving, straight and radial steps and L-modules. They were used in the urban square to create a circular dais, the walls for grassed terraces and walkways.

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Describing the project, Alice Cooper added: “A collaborative approach has produced innovative design solutions that in a competitive market enhanced the quality of the space and complemented the surrounding architecture.”

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The Urban Square on the site was constructed early in a redevelopment programme that aimed to lift the quality of the environment in an area where previous industrial use had left a legacy of dereliction. Planning permission was granted to Barratt East Midlands for a 653-unit high-density housing scheme and Capita Lovejoy Birmingham was commissioned to undertake the detailed design of the public area for Phase 1 and coordinate the design and delivery process. Capita Lovejoy had already been responsible for the overall masterplan for the Freemens Meadow development but the Urban Square was the first part of the broader landscape strategy.

The residential development is on an 11ha brownfield site and occupies a prominent position on the River Soar close to the city centre. The Urban Square is set in a context of perimeter blocks and its landscape design includes:

– A geometric design, with a variety of textures to reflect the surrounding architecture
– A diagonal footpath to link the riverside in future phased works
– A double avenue of semi-mature trees with play provision
– Colour themed planting – a south facing ‘hot’ border and a contrasting ‘cool’ border
– Raised grass terraces, semi mature trees and street furniture placement to remove the need for perimeter railings to define the square.

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Capita Lovejoy’s close working relationship with Blanc de Bierges (paving, walling and steps) and Louis Poulsen (lighting) led to the evolution of new products. A bespoke paving slab was created to accommodate integral uplighting, thereby avoiding any cutting on site. A wall unit was similarly devised to act as a conduit for lighting cabling, enabling discreet lighting to be incorporated into the low walls, giving further definition to the geometry of the square at twilight and at night.

Eight different computerised configurations and sequences of lighting can be used, providing the opportunity for seasonal change and the potential to reflect the City’s cultural variety.

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