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It's the people who will make a building work


Two items caught my eye in this week's AJ (17.7.03). The first was Astragal's comment on Liverpool. Regenerating Liverpool is not about 'best new' architecture, or even bad architecture.

It's about why it hasn't happened thus far and why it will happen now. Social decline has prevented Liverpool from having the good architecture that it sees regenerating other cities.

But that, along with many other things, has changed, which means that Liverpool can, too.

It is the symbiosis of key components that combine to create good architecture and that is what Liverpool is now facilitating. These components are: the developer, the city, the people and the architect.

Without any one of these, good buildings don't get built.

The people are probably the most important, because while architects seem to believe that architecture changes lives, if they took a step back they would find that it is actually people who change their own lives, and architecture that assists the process. The people will establish whether or not a building is a good one because they will know whether or not it works.

Le Corbusier believed architecture should be appreciated on the move, as we go about our daily lives. Theoretical debates within a professional journal are all very well, but rarely do they take into account what people want.

I believe passionately that the best buildings are born of a shared vision between developer and architect.Which brings me to the second item. I understood the sentiments expressed by Malory Clifford and Stuart Bailey of Blackfriars Investments, but think they have missed a point.

The 'gherkin' was designed to meet the brief of the client, who clearly wanted an iconic structure (the floor plates and letability won't have had much to do with it), but that's not everyday life.

Blackfriars exists in everyday life, which is why Will Alsop's original 102 storeys shrank to 13 - because that was the number that the client wanted.

It is in exactly this spirit that Unity is being built in Liverpool's business district. The £50 million mixed-use development goes on site in October. It will not only pre-empt, by a couple of years, the European City of Culture year in 2008, but will also pre-empt (or should I say replace) the 'Fourth Grace'.

By the way, has Astragal had any more news of Baron Isherwood?

Richard Miller, managing director, Rumford Investments

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