University of Sheffield landscape research to transform city centre waste ground

  • Neglected city centre site is developing into 'pop-up' community eco park
  • Love Square will provide a much-needed social space for workers and residents in the area

Love Square artist's impression

Work is underway to develop an innovative ‘pop-up’ urban eco park in Sheffield.

Professor Nigel Dunnett, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape, has coordinated the design of Love Square – a reconfigurable garden based on the corner of West Bar and Bridge Street in Sheffield.

Love Square will combine nature and wildlife with a social space for residents and workers in the area to enjoy all year round.

The unique design will feature wildflower meadows, lawns and a mini wetland lined with bird-friendly trees, as well as a number of seating areas. A green community café made from shipping containers is also planned for the site later in the year.

Love Square is designed to be flexible so that it can work around what is put there. It’s like a pop-up garden.

Professor Nigel Dunnett

The park’s clever design means that most of the planting - including the trees – are in moveable containers to enable it to be reconfigured in the long-term as the West Bar area develops and expands in the future.

Plans to develop the patch of land were first mooted back in 2014, when the project was shortlisted for lottery funding from the Grow Wild organisation. Love Square narrowly lost out to a joint project from Manchester and Liverpool, but the University of Sheffield teamed up with developers Urbo Regeneration and Sheffield City Council to make the plans a reality.

Professor Nigel Dunnett, who previously created the world-famous wildflower landscapes at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park together with colleague, Professor James Hitchmough, said: “There was such momentum and interest that we decided we would forge ahead with our plans. I’m delighted we’ve been able to make this happen and in some ways it makes it more satisfying that we have done it ourselves.

“I’m very happy that work has started and that all the hard work that has gone into Love Square has paid off. It is designed to be flexible so that it can work around what is put there. It’s like a pop-up garden.”

Love Square has been funded by the University’s City Office, Alumni and Grow Wild. The project complements Sheffield City Council’s Grey to Green project, a scheme to transform Sheffield’s Riverside Business District, which the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape has also been involved in. It will be a focal point on the Grey to Green route, with thousands of people passing by each day.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: "The pop-up park designed by Professor Dunnett is a further example of the University demonstrating our international research and engagement, for the benefit of the city and the city region."

The successful collaboration between the University, the developers and Sheffield City Council will bring Love Square to life and transform the area from something negative to something positive.

The site’s developer Urbo, which is behind the West Bar Square development of offices, shops and apartments, has worked closely with the University on the project.

Urbo Director Andy Dainty said: “Urbo is keen to see improvements to this part of its larger West Bar Square site and has been pleased to work with the University of Sheffield and Sheffield City Council to create a high quality temporary pocket park on what is currently wasteland.

“Urbo will also be working with its partners to establish a small architect designed cafe on the site to serve the local area once a good quality operator is found. We are delighted this small but high quality project is on site. Following on from the Council's Grey to Green project, it's another sign this part of the City is ripe for investment.”

The first phase of the project, which will create the main framework for the new space, is expected to take one month. Urbo will then start work on establishing the café.

Love Square artist's impression

More information

Grow Wild

Grow Wild is the UK’s biggest-ever wild flower campaign, bringing people together to transform local spaces with native, pollinator-friendly wild flowers and plants. Supported by the Big Lottery Fund, Grow Wild is the national outreach initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
T: 0114 2221046