Hull Embraces Silva Cells and Green Infrastructure Ahead of 2017 UK City of Culture Festivities

Streetscape improvements across the city are utilising Silva Cells in support of new shade trees


The UK City of Culture is a designation awarded every four years to a town or region in the United Kingdom, granting it one year — with access to appropriate funding — in which it hosts cultural events celebrating its local heritage. Hull was selected as the second recipient of the UK City of Culture, receiving the honor in 2017. In preparation for the festivities, a series of city improvement initiatives were undertaken, including streetscape enhancements across Hull. Re-Form Landscape Architecture prioritized making the public realm more inviting and pedestrian-friendly, planting semi-mature trees along reconfigured roads and utilising the Silva Cell system as a way to guarantee access to a robust bank of loamy, uncompacted soil, which provides the roots with space for unimpeded expansion and growth — and thus, continued health and vitality.

Installation Summary

Number of Silva Cells: 702 (3x)

Number of Trees: 50

Type of Project: Plaza, Streetscape, Stormwater

Project Designer: Re-Form Landscape Architecture

Project Contractor: Eurovia UK

Installation Date of Silva Cells: 2016

UK City of Culture

Inspired by Liverpool being named the European Capital of Culture in 2008, the UK City of Culture — first awarded to Derry in 2013 — is an every-four-years celebration of a different United Kingdom city. Municipalities across the UK submit bids for consideration, and officials vote on the winner; the unanimous selection for the 2017 honor, the second ever awarded, was Kingston Upon Hull.

In advance of the 2017 celebrations, Hull undertook a series of infrastructure enhancements across the town in an effort to make the public realm more accessible and welcoming, with a focus on the city centre. The landscape architect team at Re-Form, working in tandem with developers at ARUP, envisioned a more pedestrian-friendly and sustainable Hull, including reimagining vehicular roadways to reprioritize foot traffic. Green features were also an important element, including the planting of hardscape trees — and DeepRoot Silva Cells were tasked with providing quality soil to these plantings, allowing for unimpeded root expansion and therefore a flourishing urban forest.

Streetscape Improvements

In desperate need of improvements (having gone without city centre redevelopment since the Second World War), Hull identified 14 streets and four public squares for renovation. A total of £25 million was invested in the multi-phase landscaping project that connects the railway station to the retail quarter. More than 40,000 square meters of high-quality stone were laid, serving as both a series of new footpaths and a visual indicator of connectivity across Hull.

Enhancing the public space and creating a welcoming environment for non-vehicular commuters — and a place in which residents can gather together and feel a sense of community pride — was an important objective of project planners. Many vehicular roadways were transformed into wide-lane footpaths and gathering spaces, complete with water features and new seating.

Integrating green features was also paramount: Re-Form planted more than 50 trees along Hull’s redesigned streets. In support of the hardscapes above, the design team chose Silva Cells: a total of more than 700 (3x) cells were installed in the summer and fall of 2016. The system’s void space is housing uncompacted soil, which allows the semi-mature plantings to continue their growth in an unobstructed root environment. Runoff from the footpaths is also utilised for irrigation.

The 2017 celebrations were a huge success, attracting over five million visitors, £220 million in total city investment, and more than 800 new jobs. Hull residents feel renewed local pride, and Re-Form’s work is an integral part of this revitalization. The Director of Hull 2017, Martin Green, observed that they’ve helped breathe “fresh life into the city and created a new vibrancy. People are taking ownership of their city spaces and developing an appetite for exploration, which is leading them to discover new favourite places. The work has provided us with amazing spaces to deliver cultural events and our programme has inspired people to see their city in a new light.”

Additional Resources

For more DeepRoot projects in the UK, check out our case studies here, here, and here.


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