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Mann Island up for Carbuncle Cup again

This time disdain heaped on "three disgraces" - but is it that bad?

Published on July 23rd 2012.

Mann Island up for Carbuncle Cup again

THE Neptune Development at Mann Island has made it into an annual shortlist of awards that “celebrate” bad architecture.

We've Got One Of These AlreadyContender: A housing
scheme in Taunton

The Carbuncle Cup was launched by the construction industry journal BD Online seven years ago, at the height of the building boom.

Yet despite the Broadway Malyan scheme being a couple of years old, and never far from controversy since it first inched skywards to obscure the famous view of the Pier Head from 2008 (see Liverpool Confidential past), it has taken until now - the year that the city’s World Heritage Site status flounders on the ropes - for the three black granite and glass monoliths to make the hit list.

The trio, dubbed “coffins” by heritage campaigner Wayne Colquhoun, ranks alongside several newbie blots on the national landscape for the 2012 wooden spoon. These include Anish Kapoor's crazy corkscrew Olympic monument, Orbit, Belfast’s Titanic museum and the new visitor facilities at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

Shard End Library - BirminghamContender: Shard End
Library - Birmingham
Neptune’s next door neighbour at Mann Island, The Museum of Liverpool, was cited last year.

From the unnamed nominator whose language, perhaps, has a familiar ring: “I would like to nominate Mann Island by Broadway Malyan. AKA The 3 disgraces. Who would have thought that Liverpool a World Heritage City deserved to have three giant black coffins dumped on the waterfront. 3 graces next to 3 disgraces.”

Described by BD as wrist-slashingly awful and “a scheme that completes the desecration of that city’s once great waterfront” it seems that the mag has only just noticed the effort which Neptune’s literature calls “one of the city’s most stunning developments of the century”.

How Best Western sees itHow Best Western sees itYet, the scheme has myriad deniers. Ads in the national media, promoting the city and its visitor attractions, largely ignore its existence.

Photographs of the Three Graces from Wapping, sans Neptune development, continue to be widely used, even in some of the city's own publicity material.

At one point, the judging panel on the Carbuncle Cup included the likes of Guardian architecture expert Jonathan Glancy.

Perhaps as a sign of the times, this year it will be up to a couple of the website’s writers to decide if Neptune sinks or swims, but judging by the opposition, it should be safe.

Whether winning will cause a tsunami or a mere ripple of conversation, remains to be seen.

The Pier Head ferry terminal building won the Carbuncle Cup in its glory boom days of 2009, pipping One Park West to the post.

The Laz Word: 'Concentrate criticism on waterfront buildings yet to appear'

NOMINATING a Mann Island development (again) for a carbuncle prize maybe demonstrates no other so-called ugly buildings have gone up in recent times. The development was controversial from the word go, mainly because of its closeness to the wonderful Pier Head and the famous view lost forever of the Three Graces from Wapping Dock.

As a piece of modern architecture it
doesn't strike me as a carbuncle, and even the new glass palace that has become home to Merseytravel looks quite striking

Isn't it time, though, to think to the future and concentrate constructive criticism on waterfront buildings yet to appear?

I wonder whether the Broadway Malyan development would have generated so much hatred if it had been built elsewhere? As a piece of modern architecture it doesn't strike me as a carbuncle, and even the new glass palace that has become home to Merseytravel looks quite striking.

Although we need to look forward, it will be useful for a moment to go back in time to put Mann Island into perspective.

Old Warehouses Obscure The Three GracesOld Warehouses Obscure The Three Graces

Until the 1930s and 1940s Mann Island was crammed with high rise warehouses, serving the adjoining docks. Dereliction and WW2 saw all of that reduced to rubble. Until then there would have been no view at all of the Three Graces from the Albert Dock.

The developments – Mann Island, the Museum of Liverpool and the new Mersey ferry terminal (which is a total carbuncle), and of course the canal – have re-invigorated the Pier Head with human activity. The Pier Head served the city as the main terminus for the trams, which needed a convenient turnaround space.

When the last tram left in the 1950s, the terminus became the main bus station.

2009 Winner!2009 Winner!By then the city had turned its back on the river and most buses left the Pier Head empty, picking up passengers in the city centre. Such is the hostile, windy environment that the Pier Head has never been a public gathering place, except for a few days in the summer when the harsh winds blowing in from the Irish Sea take a holiday.

The battle of Mann Island was lost when Unesco took the decision that the development did not compromise the integrity of the World Heritage Site.

Just as the old warehouses disappeared into history, maybe one day Mann Island will change again. But for now, like it or loathe it, you’d better get used to it.

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

AnonymousJuly 23rd 2012.

The laz word sums it up perfectly!!!!

AnonymousJuly 23rd 2012.

Not this old chestnut again...............

MikeyBJuly 23rd 2012.

Does Wayne Colquhoun, the one-man campaign group, like any local modern architecture???????????

AnonymousJuly 23rd 2012.

I think it does no harm at all to stand back now and then and reflect on our architecture. Critics have often served a most useful purpose in highlighting poor or badly positioned architecture. It would be even worse if we would not tolerate any criticism. Even now you will often see Liverpool waterfront photographs, taken from the Albert Dock before the new buildings went up. That must speak volumes. That iconic view is now only possible by looking at a photograph. Look around Liverpool and the general standard of architecure, particularly in the late 1900s, is poor, if not pathetic. It is interesting that one of the big prizes for Liverpool ONE went to the footbridge linking the car park and the John Lewis store. Architects need to be aware if they design shite buildings, they can expect to be plonking a Carbuncle Award on their mantle pieces.

A. E. StheteJuly 24th 2012.

They wouldn't look out of place in a 'business park' in fact they'd propably look quite attractive. It is the architecturally and culturally sensitive location where they appear to have been dumped that is so objectionable.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2012.

You are right about the hostile, windy environment, Laz. Which is why On The Waterfront is such a crap idea.

A. E. StheteJuly 24th 2012.

Of course, having high-sided building accentuates the wind problems, something architects identified in the nineteenth century.
Unfortunately the trendy modern lot seem to think their creations exist in a special separate universe with no wind in it. Either that or they don't give a damn once they've got their money.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2012.

Has anyone informed all the foreign tourists, UK visitors and local people who now delight in visiting this fabulous, vibrant, confident area of all these problems?

Seems a shame to let them all enjoy themselves unaware of what a hell hole someone has created.
Wait til they become aware of how it was in the good ol' days, they'll be so disappointed to realise they could have sat surrounded by tramps and pigeons watching the empty buses go in and out, with the smell of chip fat wafting over them

EdJuly 24th 2012.

I imagine all the foreign tourists must be shocked, particularly as the Neptune buildings do not appear on ANY publicity material for the city. What is Japanese for "What the F*ck!?"?

If it *were* to appear on said images, it would look like a giant Photoshop mistake and some design kid would face being fired from his or her job.

Having said that, as stated above, the sneery, snidey Carbuncle Cup is just that. We are above it, people. Let us move on. We have work to do.

RobertJuly 24th 2012.

Death Star

A. E. StheteJuly 24th 2012.

Empty buses Anonymous? I used to use them quite a lot with many others and even people who didn't use the buses used the unobtrusively low-rise bus station for sightseeing, as a grandstand for watching the river traffic and notable visiting vessels and a comfortable shelter from wind and rain with plenty of excellent views through the plate glass continuous picture windows. And it was all free of charge. And it didn't have some arrogant architect's name attached to it.

No-one bothered to ask the uncounted hundreds of thousands if not millions who must have done this during the bus station's lifetime. The Pier Head became 'dead' only after its demolition.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 24th 2012.

Since when was town planning carried out by a public votes? The image you paint is wonderful, yet so removed from the truth, have you been in the new museum? magnificent, and that too is free, with wonderful views.

AnonymousJuly 25th 2012.

You seem to forget that it stuck of piss and it was where tramps slept. Take off the rose tinted bins!

The Man on the Garston OmnibusJuly 26th 2012.

The new Museum of Liverpool does have views, for the handful of people that can see out of its few windows.

Its high-sided bulk also funnels strong winds onto pedestrians on the riverside on even the calmest of pleasant days.

It may be free (at the moment) but it also has restricted opening hours.

The bus station was open twenty-four hours per day including the elevated promenade on the roof. I can only assume that there are vested interests with axes to grind when I see such vitriol directed against such a pleasant, accommodating, well-used and popular landmark.

A. E. StheteJuly 26th 2012.

That's what the developers call "vibrant waterside living".

Look at the adverts!

The Man on the Garston OmnibusJuly 24th 2012.

Church Street, Lord Street, Bold Street etc. were also plagued by tramps and pigeons, somehow the problem was solved without wholesale demolition.

Pierre HeadJuly 24th 2012.

I don't object to the buildings themselves. I'm sure it's a wonderful place to live. However, nothing but the finest example of architecture should have been allowed to obscure that view. The Voss garage was designed particularly low level for this reason.

Rob DansonJuly 24th 2012.

So many variations of the unhistoricised conservatism of architectural taste. Most of the above couldn't imagine a change in the waterfront never mind any kind of modern architecture which wouldn't disgrace the baroque early 20th century edifices which caused similar responses from "outraged of Aigburth" at the time. The same retrograde debate surrounded "The Cloud". It's not "in keeping" with the Three Graces because we live in the 21st century - your skyline has changed, get over it. A real metropolis like New York has managed it.

Pierre HeadJuly 24th 2012.

Now I did like The Cloud. That was bold and the finest example of architecture in that it was experimental. But the local media - the Daily Post as I remember - whipped up a storm of probably about five of its 10 OAP readers and managed to spook the lily-livered powers-that-be over that one, so it all suddenly became too expensive. Didn't it?

Paul WardJuly 24th 2012.

Isn't it time to move on? No, it damn well isn't. The harm to the city has been done, spinelsss council-acquiescence and all. To get a hint of how awful most of us regard the placement (note that word) of the new buildings, do a web search for images of them. You'll probably find more images of the mayor in drag - nobody likes them, nobody wants them, nobody even wants to photograph them, unless it's for a competition like the above.

The developers' boot has been stuck into the city and has drawn blood.

Placement, I said - why there? Was there a sweep in the council offices for worst siting? Prizes donated by ...

As to old warehouses formerly obscuring a view, I fail to see how a mistake of the past justifies a huge mistake of the present and, alas, the future.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2012.

You stuck in the past types make me despair, can't you see that time and architecture move on? They are different, yes, but so were the 3 graces when built and probably many of their peer buildings that are now so revered. None of the critics say what they'd actually prefer, what style or what form....so come on, what SHOULD we have been given? A replica of the Liver building?
I just can't see how you cling to the past as though it was always bathed in golden light, it wasn't!
Look at the city now and what it offers, never more popular and never such pride amongst Merseysiders....but all you can see is negative stuff that ties you to some rose tinted vision of the old days.

Paul WardJuly 24th 2012.

We weren't "given" anything - developers are making a lot of money out of a premium site. If you read more carefully you'll see that the main objectionjs are not to the buildings per se but to the abysmal location - stuffed in to gaps that weren't there, obscuring views that were glorious.

Incidentally, Liverpool makes a lot of money from tourists wanting to sniff that "rose-tinted" past.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2012.

How do you stuff something into a gap that wasn't there? Maybe I'm reading a bit too carefully now :-)

Very weak argument mate, what they come to sniff is indeed the past and the history, but there'd be far fewer if the city was the decaying unrefurbished husk it used to be before the new money came in

Did you see the article on BBC1 local news tonight? They showed a view from the front of the Liver bldg etc, with the two new additions to the side, which framed it altogether more attractively. I think too many people choose to select the now-famous view from Albert Dock- why? - because it suits their argument!

ObserverJuly 25th 2012.

Paul Ward is winning this one

1 Response: Reply To This...
Paul WardSeptember 7th 2012.


"How do you stuff something into a gap that wasn't there?" Go to Mann Island and see.

I'll repeat, I'd have been happy to see the new buildings but in a suitable situation, not shoehorned in to the dteriment of the surroundings,

Incidentally, the coal-shock of the black disappears when just a few windows are open - a pity architects don't consider little matters like people using their damn buikldings.

Pierre HeadJuly 25th 2012.

Views are important, anonymous. If you are going to lose one, you had better make damned well sure that it's for something with architectural merit and not something jarringly out of place. Who cares that you can't see St Paul's Cathedral in aspect when the buildings that surround it have been created largely with thought and ambition.

But as Larry Neild says, what is done is done and we would do well to consider the utter rubbish that Peel have drawn up for the other side of The Graces.

AnonymousJuly 25th 2012.

Fair comments, good debate. But to answer the question over what *would* have been acceptable.....any thoughts or examples of a style or type of edifice that would have fitted in better?

Pierre HeadJuly 25th 2012.

The Cloud was brilliant, a "diamond knuckleduster": It was brazen, could have even housed the RLPO and would have been given Liverpool a new, exciting definition - think Sydney Opera House - but the people who run this city lost their nerve.

They cited rising costs and the reason for that is that commercial pressures to fill it with "luxury apartments" meant that Will Alsop had to take the design back to the drawing board ten times.

To quote the Guardian at the time:

"Mike Storey, the leader of Liverpool city council, was equally enthusiastic. "The Cloud was one of the images which was key to the Capital of Culture bid," he said. "It symbolises the traditions of Liverpool and more than anything it represents the new Liverpool."

But the people of the city did not take to it, and wrote to the newspapers in their hundreds to make their feelings clear. There were also doubts about whether the Cloud would be ready for Liverpool's big year - even if work started as planned next January."

The public sector partners initially kept faith with the scheme, but have now admitted fearing it could have turned into another money-draining Millennium Dome.

In a statement Liverpool Vision, the city centre regeneration company; the Northwest Development Agency; National Museums Liverpool and the city council said the budget had risen from £228m a year ago to £324m.

The original scheme was to have included a museum, with towers behind the main structure providing commercial rental income."

Oh well. Thank you and good night.

AnonymousJuly 25th 2012.

A “childishly gigantic and irregular Liver pile” — that’s how C.H. Reilly, Liverpool uni’s professor of architecture in the 1920s, described the Royal Liver Building.

1 Response: Reply To This...
The Man on the Garston OmnibusJuly 25th 2012.

Of course, modernism was the fashion in the 1920s with the avant garde, not embellished pastiches of traditional styles.

But as you keep telling us, times have moved on.

AnonymousJuly 25th 2012.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

And don't assume all anonymous posters are one and the same person!

Jason HallJuly 25th 2012.

Can anyone tell me what the bit is at the top that looks like it hasn't been finished off, is it meant to be like that?

AnonymousJuly 25th 2012.

Yeah, so je t'encule

Pin BallAugust 10th 2012.

I don't object to the buildings' architectural style as such. The simple reason is that they are in the wrong place. The sheer lack of foresight with regard to their actual location is the biggest travesty of all. They have completely obliterated the view of the original trio of Pier Head buildings (I refuse to call them by the trendy name of the T**** G*****) from the Gower Street end of Salthouse Dock - which has created numerous opportunities for countless artists and photographers alike over the years..... I work as a tour guide/welcome host at one of the visitor attractions based in the Albert Dock and in order to give tourists directions to locate the Pier Head Ferry terminal, I tell them to look out for the area landmarked by "the three ugly black buildings over there" in order to find the Liver Building and its more celebrated companions just beyond them...

Pin BallAugust 10th 2012.

MY other rant about the whole new Pier Head esplanade development is that it's TOO WHITE and has way TOO MUCH CONCRETE and not enough GREENERY. This, of course, is based on the trendy criteria everywhere you care to go that, these days, having less trees and greenery means less clearing up after leaf fall..... so why not plant evergreen trees then, huh?

The fact they had to drive the canal extension through the middle is a welcome move, granted, but, what's with the endless ugly ramps and moulded concrete areas which do nothing to soak up the torrents of rain we get every summer now that the climate has changed for the wetter - much less offer very little shelter from the wind or even the strong sunlight and heat (on the sporadic occasions we actually get any sunshine and heat).... it's far too open and soulless...... the only bit of lawn left is directly outside the Ferry terminal, but why not have some more greenery/trees heading towards the Isle Of Man ferry landing stage - even if the intention of this vast concrete space is to allow for stages to be put up and special market stalls to be sited there whenever occasion demands. Some substantial features such as canopies to offer shelter in extreme weather would not have gone amiss.

It all seems rather badly thought through, but then, is that really such a surprise these days?

The Man on the Garston OmnibusAugust 11th 2012.

Hear hear!

Architects and planners are so infatuated with what they perceive to beauty and perfection of their table-top models that they forget about real conditions in the real world.

I've seen Peel Holdings representatives doting over models of their proposed developments, fanciful skyscrapers made from crystal glass; but no thought it given to the exposed spaces between the buildings that people will have to walk through, or indeed the vortices these huge buildings create on windy days that can lift a pedestrian of his or her feet.

Scattered ShowersAugust 11th 2012.

It was enlightening to hear Dianne Oxberry presenting the regional weather forecast on BBC's North West Tonight from the new 'Media City' describing the place as "a wind tunnel".

Media City was designed and built by developers Peel Holdings

Alan FlemingOctober 21st 2012.

I don't care what any critic says, I personally think that all the new buildings at the pier head are superb and do not detract from the "classics" of the Pier head in any way. I bet there were whiners about the Liver buildings as they went up too

Barry WilkinsonOctober 30th 2012.

And yet the tourists keep flocking in..amazing.

Scattered ShowersOctober 30th 2012.

They aren't coming to see the crap sheds that have been thrown up around the Pier Head, they're coming despite them.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Barry WilkinsonOctober 31st 2012.

Wel thats more good news then..some are coming to 'spite' them and others actually LIKE them..I know..people have actually told me..some in broken English but still understandable..so there you are MR/Mrs Scattered.

AcanthophyllumNovember 28th 2013.

Let's just be grateful that the original scheme never went ahead. Alsop's napkin sketch was so truly horrible (not to mention unworkable as a museum) that it would even have made the new ferry building look good.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Doric RoadNovember 28th 2013.

The Cloud was brave and glorious and would have put the waterfront on the world map like Sydney Opera House. This scheme is nothing short of terrible.

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