Precision and attention to detail were the vital ingredients Hardscape and its sister company IP Surfaces brought to the project to create the Carrara marble Glade of Light memorial to the 22 people who died in a terrorist attack at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017. The victims included six children under 16, the youngest just eight.
It was designed to be a living memorial, a tranquil garden space for remembrance and reflection. Its peaceful surroundings are intended as the setting for commemorative events in the city relating to the attack. Winners of a Manchester City Council inspired competition, the memorial, and the garden in which it is located, was designed by Liverpool-based landscape architects BCA Landscape and creative agency Smiling Wolf. Altrincham-based landscape architects Planit-IE wrote the specification for the competition memorial.
It was both a great honour and a great responsibility to win the competition to design this memorial. Set within the wild beauty of the planting is the simplicity of a circle, that references the infinite and the eternal carved in Bianco di Carrara marble.
Galliford Try had been chosen as the main contractor and IP Surfaces’ sister company, Hardscape, had been chosen by landscape architect Planit-IE, who wrote the specification for the competition for the memorial, to supply the stone for the garden in the Medieval Quarter. Planit-IE had worked with Hardscape before, and Partner Lindsay Humblet commented: “We always get 110% service from them because they’re passionate about what they do.”
When BCA Landscape won the competition, it became a natural consequence to collaborate with Hardscape to handle the sourcing and the manufacture and production via IP Surfaces, because BCA Landscape had also previously worked with both companies on a number of other successful projects.
The project team visited eight quarries in Carrara, Tuscany, all pre-Covid timings and conditions, before deciding on the particular marble they wanted, which needed to be technically sound to offer the least amount of movement as well as being aesthetically pleasing.
BCA Landscape wanted the ‘halo’ of Carrara marble slabs to be bookmatched (pictured above) – a technique of matching two (or more) stone surfaces, so that, in this case particularly, two adjoining surfaces mirrored each other, giving the impression of an opened book.
Bookmatching creates a beautiful effect within the marbled surface that also mimics the bilateral symmetry that we see in nature and is particularly evident in the ephemeral moment of a passing butterfly.
Once the slabs had arrived in the UK at IP Surfaces, the project team came to inspect them and BCA Landscape chose precisely where the cuts would be made for bookmatching. By the time the slabs were being cut, Covid restrictions had begun and the decisions on individual slabs were made using remote digital assets via the internet. Each of the 26 slabs weighed 2.3tonnes and each took a full day to cut to radius and embellish on the CNC at IP Surfaces state-of-the-art facility.
Several loads of the marble slabs were transported to site organised by Hardscape’s logistics team and then professionally installed by a Hardscape recommended sub-contractor. In the centre of each of the joining edges of the slabs is a semicircle, which accommodates a ‘memory capsule’, containing personal and appropriate memories of their loved ones. These were capped onsite with bronze lids with marble inlays and central bronze hearts. The caps were both resin-bonded and mechanically fixed into position and sealed by hand by an IP Surfaces skilled stonemason.
The names of the deceased are also written in the stone, with the inscription being cut by waterjet into the marble and filled with brass inserts. There are bronze dividers between each of the slabs that, like the memory capsule lids, protrude ‘proud’ of the surface. This is largely to discourage skateboarders from damaging the memorial.
The joints were also further complicated by there being a slight fall on the marble surface to stop water pooling on it. The joints had to accommodate the fall; hence they were cut on a waterjet to achieve the compound angle required. The marble was sealed with a Tenax Stoneline 81 product to protect it and make it easier to keep clean.
Landscaping and Bespoke Features
Hardscape also continued to provide the paving for the rest of the garden. There was York stone paving already on part of the site, which has been re-used. In order for new paving to match that, Hardscape sourced newly quarried York stone from Johnsons Wellfield Quarries.
There are 1,300m2 of 150mm x 300mm x 80mm sandstone paving, half of it with the top face shot sawn and the other half diamond sawn, interspersed with a total of 30m2 of the same stone with a pattern etched into it again, produced in-house at the IP Surfaces factory, patterning that evokes the medieval architecture of the Cathedral.
The main paths of the garden are also edged with Portuguese granite and the space also includes glacial boulders that Hardscape sourced from Wales. Bespoke patterned granite ends for the wooden benches were also made and produced at IP Surfaces.
It’s a great example of what stone can achieve; how you can manipulate it to achieve a design intention for a particular location, and the awesome energy it can bring to a project. What has been achieved here has received the sort of recognition that is usually reserved for a building. It has all the ingredients of what I stand for and what the team here assists me in achieving on an hour-by-hour basis. I’m very proud of our part we played in this meaningful and iconic project.