Glade of Light: from concept to creation

The memorial has been designed by BCA Landscape (BCAL) in conjunction with Smiling Wolf. Pro Landscaper speaks to someone close to the project – Andy Thomson, director at BCA Landscape – about its impact

Andy and Shivani

Andy, working closely with his colleague Shivani Gunawardana, first got involved with the project back in 2019 through a competition to design a memorial for the Manchester Arena bombing. The project was close to his heart, being based in the Northwest and having friends of his daughters there on the terrible night of the attack. The design challenge was a chance for them to show their respects to those affected and create a special place of remembrance, where people can briefly pause time and find a place of stillness.

Most of the design took three to four years, with the COVID-19 pandemic being a factor on the timeline – yet that was not the only complication. The area where the memorial is based faced its own challenges with the site being a tight sloping space with challenges underground such as services and Cathedral catacombs. However, even with the challenges, Andy and his team managed to create a contemporary memorial which held the ideas of the victims, their families, the survivors, and those who wished to pay their respect, all in the heart of the piece.

The Glade of Light

The design of the marble halo was put in place to “memorialise the people who suddenly lost their lives that day,” reiterated with the idea that “each stone piece would have their name set in bronze”. In addition to this, Andy stated: “We also wanted to do something very personal for the families that was just for them,so, with their help we created the idea of the memory capsules, where they could leave personal mementos, memories or letters, actually within the piece itself.” These small, but meaningful additions ultimately create a more personal and interactive memorial for the families.

The flowing white marble contrasts perfectly with the plants around the memorial, giving the piece a different feel, each time people visit. The Moors nearby in the Peak District inspired the wild planting and flowing nature of Andy and Shivani design. In addition to this, the upcycling of the Yorkstone from the site is not only sustainable but also adds a part of Manchester’s history to the memorial.

When projects such as the Glade of Light are completed, it’s hard to choose which part you are most proud of. But for Andy, it is seeing people having a positive emotional response to the garden. He said: “One thing that’s really nice is when you go there and see the messages and the flowers, and just seeing people there, walking around the garden and taking a bit of time to reflect. That’s the biggest, positive and emotional part of this project.”

Andy and the team at BCAL aren’t slowing down after completing this project either. They are currently working on Wirral Waters, which is an exciting long-term regeneration project and one of the biggest in the country. In addition to this, they are working with a number of universities focusing on creating exciting campus environments with student’s positive physical and mental well-being at heart.

We at Pro Landscaper cannot wait to see how these projects turn out and are looking forward to seeing more from Andy and his team.

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