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Disgraced City

I hate to hear my city brought down in the press, but I have to applaud the AJ

I hate to hear my city brought down in the press, but I have to applaud the AJ for breaking the news that 3XN are off the Museum of Liverpool project (AJ 15.11.07). We in Liverpool now await the battle for copyright custody on what was supposed to be the flagship icon of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture 2008: a museum of Liverpool life that nobody wants and its annexe of 300 stick-a-brick granite apartments taking out some of the best views in the country – World Heritage views. To use your best asset as a gimmick shows just what a lack of culture exists in the hometown that I love and cherish.

This misguided land grab started when Alsop’s glass pie in the sky won a competition with 925 public votes – yes 925. The other designs were no better. In fact they were appalling for the famous Liverpool skyline, so they used the old iconic status trick and spent £5 million on a campaign to turn the inner core of Liverpool’s World Heritage site into a feeding frenzy for ‘cosy’ developers to build glass shoe boxes stacked vertiginously with no planning guidance on tall buildings. Alsop was sacked by the power-broking oligarchs of the city. Sounds familiar.

The UNESCO World Heritage inscription for Liverpool is clear that any new construction must compliment the architecture of Pier Head and under no account should it dominate. So we had Alsop’s Fourth Grace, and then next to our three gently ageing Edwardian beauties they give us a trashy tart, a fifth grace so out of keeping it’s from another planet – a Scandinavian retro design already 40 years out of date. Oh, and there was an international competition – we thank the AJ for reminding us because we, the public, were never informed of the plans for the ruination our iconic Pier Head. And they use the old ‘we don’t want pastiche’ routine to sell it.

Are we the public to be treated as plebeians forever by a regime that then takes us to the very brink of being put on the ‘at risk’ register by UNESCO?

We now hear, again via the AJ, that a less durable Jura limestone is to replace the travertine marble cladding – the very selling point that swung it for the architects at planning committee. I advised the committee that, when the Cunard buildings were built, the cut stone was laid on Portland beach for four years to test its integrity and ability to withstand the treacherous weather. To use inferior materials is foolish.

I hate out-of-towners slating my city, so I will do it for them. This is another example of the ruination of Liverpool’s waterfront. We, as a city, almost had a blank canvas on which to paint a new horizon, and instead we have squandered the integrity of those greats who worked here at the turn of the century and later between the wars: Gilbert Scott, Lutyens, Sir Charles Reilly and his pupils; the greats who made Liverpool what it is today, who gave us a World Heritage site, who gave us our icons.

Meanwhile, Liverpool School of Architecture, made world famous by Reilly, watches while an out-of-control planning department litters the skyline with more empty apartments and kids us we are back on centre stage.

We thank the AJ for its unbiased honesty, and declare the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. The trashy tart has been stripped of its fancy pants and now stands there naked in the ill wind of uncertainty. Disgraceful.

Wayne Colquhoun, Liverpool Preservation Trust


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