Design thinking in process: Starting to think spatially about the Open Brief activities

We’ll have design ideas to share in May but meanwhile we’re sharing some work-in-progress which explores how to allocate space to different activities in the Castle Gateway area.

How can we contribute to the design process by applying some of the questions that came out of the last round of engagement to this initial thinking?


A diagram which explores how to allocate space to different activities in the Castle Gateway area.


The designers from BDP – Matt Costa and James Millington – have started to plot out spatially the many different activities that we want the Castle Gateway area to host. This allocation of different activities to different areas is part of a thinking process, exploring the connections between activities, and the potential conflicts too. Their early analysis showed how big the area is, and how much potential there is for accommodating different activities, but the challenges of movement, noise, and spanning the seasons make it more complex than simply slotting it together like a jigsaw.

Matt and James are in the midst of a process that will lead – by mid-May – to us having more worked up design ideas to share. But Matt and James are being very open about their design process and were interested in us sharing the image below to help develop the public conversation.

***It is important to remember these are not designs, it is a diagram to help think about the issues and to ultimately inform the designs!***

As you can see here space has been allocated to:

  • clear access and arrival routes from Castlegate towards the Castle Museum and Clifford’s Tower
  • an events space in the centre of the Castle Car Park
  • an extended green area from the motte into the new public space
  • a quiet space outside the Last Drop on the Female Prison, which maybe a potential area of change in the future, if the museum expands.
  • an area with distinct character alongside the Foss with a river walk
  • informal play
  • exploring the potential for fountains or other water in the area
  • controlled access to the court and turning space for court traffic
  • controlled access for the Hilton and servicing for the Coppergate Centre
  • a formal space for cultural activities between the court and museum buildings
  • new trees and other planting

Options to retain on street parking for blue badge holders on Tower Street are also being explored.

We ran a series of events earlier during this process of analysis and design which explored the challenges, and you helped develop a range of questions we could use to test the early designs – basic things you felt the designs had to get right. You can see them all here and we’d really like your thoughts on how this diagram of the spaces and activities seems to answer them.

4 thoughts on “Design thinking in process: Starting to think spatially about the Open Brief activities”

  1. It would be good to add a feature fountain to the development- this would bring tourists to the area to see the fountain. It could be lighted and musical – ie shows every 30 mins in the summer – be a big tourist draw for York and environmentally friendly

  2. Looks really good but why so long to develop – this is like waiting for the second coming. Come on, speed this up. The car park is, and has been for years, a stain on our beautiful city. My only comment is whether some street food could be accommodated so people can relax and enjoy the space with a coffee etc. Like the green spaces, so important in an inner city space and a connection with museum gardens and the river paths.

  3. When you mention about an “event space” it is incredibly importnat to think about the infratstructure required to deliver any event in that space – will it have appropriate electrical supplies and other utilities for both the events and supplementary business such as food and drink providers? will there be a natural stage built into the space as is done in rowntrees park or will there be the requirement to build on an ad hoc basis?

    the other key aspect of any event space is the ability to control the access to that area. and control viewpoints. In order to finance any event there will be a need to either charge an audience for access or viewing of the space or find another means of finance. without the ability to also somehow limit the audience access to the space then there will be very limited use of the space- I am concerned by the open access to the museum that is flowing next to the event space as this will hinder closure of the space and also any project delivery – I would suggest having conversations with proven event providers in the city about what they need from an event space

  4. The structural elements, with the spine from Castlegate to the museum entrance and the addition of the central ‘arrivals area’ off this near Clifford Tower help define the area to be developed. Likewise, the limiting of traffic to only the Court side of the Eye is a logical step.

    However, the present allocation of activity area as shown has several failings:
    1. The grass and tree in the center of the Museum have been lost to a hard surfaced ‘curation area’. This loss damages the historic significance of a tree in Eye of Yorkshire.
    2. The hard surface of the car-park has just been replaced by another large hard surfaced events space with no greenery. (the lime green colouring of the space shown will not be grass)
    3. The area allocated for gardens, the quiet space, public seating (by the Last Drop) will be lost if the future museum building is ever built.
    4. The stepped access down to the River Foss suggested by the public engagement is not provided.

    All in all, more greenery will probably be lost than gained. Yes, there is a children’s’ play area by the Coppergate Centre service yard, but there is little space allocated for many of the activities drawn out by the public engagement, such as free spaces to play, picnic and relax or sit, and too much space allocated to the limited access (revenue earning) Event Space.

    Perhaps the following should be considered:
    1. Adding a water feature to the central ‘arrivals area’ to ensure it is a focal point.
    2. Reduce the size of the Event space – the Rose Theatre for example only took up half of the Car Park area.
    3. Move the curated area to beside the Last Drop. This would allow the Eye of Yorkshire to remain green, and allow the retention of the single tree as the ‘Meeting Tree’.
    4. Move the garden/quiet area/seating to occupy some of the space gained by reducing the size of the Event Space, and add a stepped area down to the Foss behind (to the east of) this area.


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