With regeneration work currently ongoing throughout Stoke-on-Trent city centre, it would have been easy for work on Smithfield Central Business District (CBD) to blend in to the backdrop of high quality granite. However, when introducing a Central Business District to the immediate south of the city, it was proposed that the public realm should have its own distinctive character. As a result of this decision, Wienerberger and Hardscape supported the area to embrace its pottery making history, combined with the ingredient of red marls to inform the development of a warm colour palette.
The work, which commenced in 2014, was part of a £32.7million development project, for which Wienerberger’s Dutch Clay pavers in Ravenna, Mastiek, Siena and Basalt blends were selected for the project, through Hardscape’s material advice process. Hardscape’s Magma Granite paving and Crystal Black Granite were also selected due to their beautiful aesthetics and resistance to wear. The project also sparked the wider regeneration of the city, delivering a project and an environment that will put Stoke-on-Trent on the national stage and attract major inward investment.
The site’s former use as industrial earthenware works was a key driver for the architecture, which aims to remind people of the city’s industrial heritage, while extensive work has been completed on both the scheme’s design and brand proposition to ensure that Smithfield achieves its goal of attracting occupiers and investors. Within Stoke-on-Trent there is a mix of green space and hard landscape, something that was an important factor in the development of the Smithfield CBD, to ensure this mix was continued.
Master planners and lead designers RHWL Architects also designed the two office buildings, which will deliver state-of-the-art office space that exceeds energy consumption reduction targets and aims for BREEAM Excellent ratings.
The development of the two buildings, which boast 210,000 sq ft of space, will be occupied by the city council once completed and the Smithfield Central Business District is the catalyst that will ultimately spark the wider regeneration of the city. The project, which utilises contemporary linear format clay paving, combined with threads of granite to add a continuity that flows throughout the city centre, provides a distinctive and vibrant civic public space.
Since the 17th century, Stoke-on-Trent and the surrounding area have been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale pottery manufacturing. A local abundance of coal and clay, suitable for earthenware production, led to the development of this industry. Using clay paving and bricks within the site therefore seemed a fitting response. Conceptually this led to the consideration of the process and story behind making clay bricks and how this could influence the character and colour of elements within the landscape. The brick making narrative follows a process from a naturally occurring resource below ground, to a refined finished product or object on or above it. This journey from geology to a finished element influenced the character of the public realm. The manifestation of planting, paving and water embodied this narrative, reflecting the subtle progression across the site from naturalistic to formal.