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It's RIBA Architecture month

Probe the secret crannies of Liverpool like Larry Neild

Published on June 3rd 2010.


It's RIBA Architecture month

NOT so long ago, I mourned the lack of quality post-WW2 architecture in Liverpool. Only the Roman Catholic Cathedral rated, in my own book, as a significant piece of modern architecture.

I wonder though in the new money-saving era of the coalition whether we’ll enter a phase of austerity architecture, reflecting the fact the country has now not got two pieces of polished marble to rub together.

Of course the Albert Dock wasn’t included as it dates back to the days of its namesake prince, though its conversion, after Liverpool’s own “World War 3” – the Toxteth Riots – is a worthy contender as a rescued and restored complex of buildings.

Some late 20th century buildings, such as LJMU’s impressive learning and resource centre behind the unimpressive ruins of St Andrew’s Church in Rodney Street, have collected worthy architectural gongs along the way.

Little new though, apart from the big wigwam, worth heading this way for. That is until the 21st century. So you wait for some quality stuff, and like buses, splendid architects arrive in threes, fours and more.

It means, of course, that the month long festival of North West Architecture, launched today in Liverpool by RIBA, will have plenty for fans of the old and the new.Why not tell Liverpool Confidential readers what are your favourite new and old buildings, and those that would earn your bulldozer award?

During the festival people can visit the innards of the Queensway Tunnel, an amazing expedition that starts in the art-deco ventilation shaft at the Pier Head and finishes underneath the roadway transporting traffic to and from Birkenhead. Note for the nervous – don’t ask the guide to reveal the smallest distance between the river bed and the roof of the tunnel.

Mid-June, Dr Richard Koeck from the University of Liverpool’s School of Architecture will use rare archive footage by the Lumiere Brothers, helped by cutting edge technology, to discuss the Liverpool Overhead Railway. The completed films will eventually be shown in the new Museum of Liverpool – making this a peek preview.

There’ll be guided tours around the splendid Martin's Bank Building, Liverpool’s finest banking hall – sadly now closed. Follow in the footsteps of Tony Robinson and visit the original dock, dating back to the 1700s and hidden (apart from that glass-topped spy-hole) buried beneath Liverpool One.

Turning to the 21st century architect, Matt Brook, from Broadway Malyan, will be giving an insight into the new developments in and around Mann Island – love them or loathe them you can’t ignore the developments down there.

One of the big regular events will be Walk the Front, a series of walking tours and guest lectures throwing the spotlight on the most influential architecture in Liverpool.

The tours will range from the Liverpool buildings that inspired the first skyscrapers of Chicago, to Liverpool's ever changing commercial district, and figuring large will be the architecture of Liverpool One, particularly the master plan inspired by celebrated Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli, famed for the Petronas Towers.

Watch out for Architruck, a travelling roadshow featuring architects and architecture, giving visitors the chance to vote on their contenders for gongs for buildings costing less than £350,000.

I wonder though in the new money-saving era of the coalition whether we’ll enter a phase of austerity architecture, reflecting the fact the country has now not got two pieces of polished marble to rub together.

Will it mean boring, stark buildings with no or little embellishments, a sort of Le Corbusier-meets-David Cameron. Many of Liverpool’s post-war buildings, notably around the city centre, built on Blitz sites during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, are no more than functional, though at the time they’d take anything thrown at us to finish the job of re- building.

The renaissance of Liverpool, fortified by Liverpool One, has given the city’s architectural profile a lift. The new Museum of Liverpool will surely be a contender for awards, and, who knows, the people of Liverpool may like the new Mann Island blocks once they are up and running. They’ll attract more and more visitors to the “wrong” side of the Strand, bringing new life and new activity to the environs around the Pier Head.

Full details of RIBA North West’s month long festival can be found at www.af2010.org.uk or www.walkthefront.org.

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Good,bad,uglyJune 1st 2010.

There's the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Liverpool's architecture. The virtually tree-free and green-free streetscapes give the city a hard edge making it seem unfriendly. Too much of the city centre is devoid of green foilage. Why? It's all about ambience and feeling comfortable. In that respect it doesn't matter the architecture is new or old.

dojJune 1st 2010.

Dig -the British Red Cross Building shows on the 1906 Toxteth OS Map as an 'Engine House'.

AnonymousJune 1st 2010.

RIBA should have instead organised an exhibition showing photos of the many beautiful buildings bulldozed in Liverpool by developers. That would show architects just what gems we have lost in the name of modernism.

ConfusedJune 1st 2010.

That's bollocks. there are trees everywhere!

DigJune 1st 2010.

Does anybody know what the marvellous building on Sefton Street/Tower Street used to be used for? It's on the edge of Brunswick Business Park, has quite a tall tower and now houses The British Red Cross.

AnonymousJune 1st 2010.

If you want trees, look no further than William Brown Street and Lime Street.

Liverpool WagJune 1st 2010.

Didn't Wayne Rooney get into bother for probing the secret crannies of Liverpool?

DigJune 1st 2010.

A city centre devoid of foliage? Well I never.

Customs HouseJune 1st 2010.

Same old miserable, backward thinking thought that there is nothing good left. Yeh, and we lost India

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