Castle Car Park

How Castle Car Park can morph into a place to come together.

What is the space now?

The area is now Castle Car Park. It is between the Foss and Clifford’s Tower motte and between the end of the Female Prison part of York Castle Museum and Castlegate and Coppergate Centre.

What did the Castle Gateway Masterplan say?

  • Make a new public space
  • Open up new walking routes
  • Create a new building on the back on Coppergate to make the building turn towards the new public space
  • Enable the York Castle Museum to welcome visitors and increase access through a new building – ‘Castle Gateway Building’ – linked to the end of the Female Prison

In the future Castle Car Park area, what are people doing?

Getting as close to the Foss as possible – ideally close enough to get their feet wet! #GatheringPlace #GatheringWithWater #GatheringPlayfully

Taking part in activities on the Foss, such as canoeing or kayaking. #GatheringPlace

Sitting and perching, with a sandwich or an ice cream. #GatheringPlace

Thinking, praying, saying the Mourner’s Kaddish and ‘facing the history of 1190’ in a place that is spatially connected to Clifford’s Towers and, like the plaque that is currently at the base of the motte, visually references Jewish history and faith. #GatheringPlace #GatheringHeritage

Visitors to the Castle and Eye of York area understand the significance of Clifford’s Tower – including the significance of the daffodils. A cruical message visitors leave with is that 1190 was not the end of York’s Jewish Community and that it continues to thrive to this day. #GatheringPlace #GatheringHeritage

Following the old line of Castlegate to help find their way towards the new Castle Gateway Building. For this wider path to be textured, high contrast, playful and helping tell the story of the area so it works for people who are blind, partially sighted as well as for families. #GatheringPlace #GatheringHeritage #GatheringOnTheMove

Understanding the Prison layout of the 19th and early 20th centuries – and some of the amazing stories of people who were imprisoned there, like chartist leader Fergus O’Connor but also less famous and everyday people too. #GatheringPlace #GatheringHeritage

Seeing the Castle layout, including the Southern Gateway, and how Castlegate connected the city to area and understanding how things have changed since. #GatheringPlace #GatheringHeritage

Buying drinks and food from cafes, pop-up vans or stalls. #GatheringPlace

Enjoying bigger outdoor events which take up more of the space, with some shelter and with places to sit and have a good view. #GatheringPlace

Wandering into this area at night because they want somewhere less boozy but still full of activity and to take part in cultural activities, like poetry readings, acoustic music, talks and discussions. #GatheringPlace #GatheringAtNight

Hanging out in the area at night and enjoying the buildings lit up in ways which are subtle, magical and tell stories of the area. #GatheringPlace #GatheringAtNight

Moving around easily on flat access and accessible paths that work for people who use wheelchairs, people with mobility issues and people with buggies. #GatheringPlace #GatheringAccessibly

Being welcomed to the York Castle Museum in an accessible way, with flat access and without long queues. #GatheringPlace #GatheringAccessibly

Understanding the whole history of the site through displays and interpretation in the new Castle Gateway Building. #GatheringPlace #GatheringHeritage

Castle Car Park: Design Challenges

The design of this space needs to respond to various challenges:-

  • It should somehow reflect the history of the place, which has been at times closed off by massive walls and at other times opened up for civic use. This is echoed in current wishes to have spaces which feel personal (for a picnic or meeting friends, or watching a street artist) but also opportunity for bigger events which require engagement over bigger distance. Texture and surfacing, steps and level differences and trees/planting are some of the design tools which might provide this.
  • For the other buildings – especially the new buildings at the back of Coppergate and the new Castle Gateway Building– to respect and respond to Clifford’s Tower, physically and conceptually. For views, proximity and activities to be developed in ways which recognises the significance of Clifford’s Tower.
  • It needs to manage the transition from the enclosure of medieval streets to more open space, as people move from or to the city centre. The sense of enclosure shifts from buildings immediately bordering the street, to a space where enclosure is provided by a small number of key, large buildings. The design of landscaping and structures, and management of views, needs to respond to this.
  • It needs to deal with the new development on the far side of The Foss, where the visual boundary will be the rear of substantial new buildings. The design of the space (including structures and planting) needs to consider enclosure and control of views – where they are needed for legibility (seeing key buildings or routes) and where they can be more enclosed to provide shelter for all-year use. This would include considering prevailing winds and the path of the sun.
  • It needs to allow direct access to The Foss. At a minimum this should enable use of the river for canoeing/kayaking and other non-motorised use. Ideally it should provide a wider access, allowing people to get close to or actually into the water safely and without risk of falling, and should also make visible the natural variation in the level of the river. Guidance on design is available here.
  • It needs to manage level differences. Consideration needs to be given to the level difference between Castlegate and the proposed setting of the new Castle Gateway Building museum entrance, and also between the base of the Motte and the Foss. Level/ramped access is needed to allow movement of wheelchairs, buggies etc, and cyclists.
  • The design needs to provide places for places to sit or “perch”. This might include conventional benches or seating but might also include less formal opportunities such as more sculptural objects or steps. This approach should also be taken in respect of play and playfulness – surfacing, levels and projecting features can all contribute to this.
  • The design of the space will also need to consider the uncertainty over the Castle Museum extension. One approach would be to assume the siting of the former castle gatehouse becomes a focal point for movement in any case, and also a space with views of the Foss and of the Last Drop. Other approaches may be considered.
  • To create a place for thought, reflection, prayer and saying Kaddish which connects to the histories of the place and especially the massacre of York’s Jewish community in 1190 while still being clearly being a living part of present-day York. It should be distinct from, while connecting with and sitting well within, the other landscaping in the area, including harder landscaping and movement routes and might be inspired by different traditions of gardens and outside spaces in the Jewish faith.
  • The design of the public space needs to respond to the route between Castlegate and the proposed new Castle Gateway Building, and the fact that this divides the space in two, with an area beneath Clifford’s Tower and the Motte, and an area which borders the Foss, and links the rear of the Coppergate Centre and the proposed new building. The design of these two spaces might reflect the idea that the kinds of atmosphere and activities might move from being more reflective and quieter nearer the motte and more fun, noisy, playful and busy towards the Foss.
  • The role of commerce in driving activity in public space was noted during the public engagement process. The design of the space and relationship with commerce on the margins (for example the new Castle Gateway Building or the proposed extension to Coppergate) or on the space itself (pop-up activities or stalls) should be considered to ensure the space offers a lively, welcoming environment as much of the time as possible, with activity extending out into the space. The early evening period was identified as a particular challenge to which the design should respond.
  • The design should create a space which feels welcoming and safe at all times including at night. The use of lighting, legibility of routes, and design of landscaping and structures will be key to this.
  • Consideration of sustainability should underpin the design and intended uses of buildings, spaces and landscaping.