Everton, once a prosperous Liverpool suburb, is now run down and plagued by unemployment. Among the blocks of neglected housing and stretches of wasteland which characterise the area are outstanding buildings like the Collegiate School, an ornate red-sandstone Gothic structure, designed in 1843 by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, architect of St George's Hall in the city centre.
The school closed in 1986 and was saved from demolition when Urban Splash (see page 26) bought it from the city council. A fire shortly afterwards which caused major damage did not deter Urban Splash from pressing ahead with a scheme to convert it into loft apartments. The conversion, into 96 units, has been designed by Shed km, the practice formed by the merger of Shed and King McAllister last year.
The front facade - where Elmes's hand is most evident - and side walls are being retained, but the contrasting rear elevation is new, with steel fins and balconies punched though large glazed openings. Inside, the magnificent double staircase will be retained to first floor level. The burned-out octagon, formerly a library behind the school, is to be developed as a garden for residents, linked at first floor level to the main building. Interior spaces have generous floor-to-ceiling heights, enabling most apartments to incorporate double-height areas. Roofs are pulled back to make space for terraces with views across Liverpool and the Mersey.
English Heritage is supportive of Shed km's approach and approves of its 'policy of discerning conservation'. The £9 million regeneration scheme is on site and expected to be completed by Spring 2000.