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BDP squares up to Johnson for £600m Liverpool revamp

The battle to remould Liverpool's city centre hotted up last week when Building Design Partnership unveiled a £600 million masterplan as a direct challenge to the designs of US heavyweight architect Philip Johnson.

BDP and its client Grosvenor/Henderson Investors have submitted a planning application to revamp a 10ha area which will create five new urban quarters and link the docks to the city's retail and business centres. BDP director Terry Davenport described the site, known as the Paradise Street Development Area, as 'a crucial fulcrum in the heart of the city'. But the plans also encompass Chavasse Park, owned by Liverpool City Council, where Johnson, Studio BAAD and their developer the Walton Group plan a retail and leisure complex (AJ 12.10.00).

The approach of the two teams to the dockside park is very different. BDP proposes to retain it as green land while the Walton Group wants to build a 300m long sculpted glass, steel and ETFE canopy above its £250 million complex. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment has already described the Johnson plans as 'quite alien to the nature of the city', and the council appears to be showing resistance to the scheme - Walton has an option to buy the land, but the council has asked the High Court to rule on whether this should remain valid.

Meanwhile, three buildings from the BDP plan, designed by Brock Carmichael Architects, Page and Park Architects and Haworth Tompkins Architects, have already been submitted for planning permission.

The scheme takes in the Duke Street conservation area where existing buildings will be renovated and derelict sites filled in.

'Our approach has been one of respecting the grain and integrity of the existing urban fabric, ' said a BDP spokeswoman. The scheme is planned for completion at the end of 2007, which is the 800th anniversary of the city.

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