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Beauty or beast: New Liverpool Pier Head Ferry Terminal

Liverpool’s new £9.5 million ferry terminal by Belfast-based Hamilton Architects sits in a UNESCO world heritage site opposite the city’s Three Graces

The three-storey waterfront building - which houses a ferry terminal on the ground floor, a Beatles’ museum on the second and a restaurant on the roof - has divided opinion.

BEAUTY

According to the practice, which won the project in an international competition in 2006, the building is ‘dramatic’ and striking while commentators on the flickr.com photographic website have described it as ‘quirky’, a ‘cool building to photograph’ and full of  ‘amazing peculiar angles’.

BEAST

A ‘shocked’ Kim Herforth Nielsen of Danish practice 3XN, the concept designer behind the nearby Museum of Liverpool, said: ‘I cannot find the words to describe my disappointment that any architect could do such a amateurish look-alike next to our building. And how could they get the planning permission, when I know how much effort it took to get the museum design through the planning process, on this very sensitive UNESCO heritage site?’

So who’s right?

Readers' comments (22)

Wht do you think about Hamilton's ferry terminal in Liverpool?

  • The building, in itself, doen't particularly offend me. It has a kind of new 'Estonian/Latvian' oddness. Just unsure about how it sits with the Graces.

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  • The problem is, it's not sitting alone, it's part of the ruination of the waterfront with a bunch of other buildings, including the new museum and the black granite stump on Mann Island. The Three Graces is hemmed in, the view from Albert Dock ruined.

    See: http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2009/07/milton-keynes-on-sea-we-are-rumbled.html

    and
    http://badbritisharchitecture.blogspot.com/2009/07/pier-head-ferry-terminal-liverpool-by.html

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  • Pictures, and a news report on the issues are here:

    http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2009/06/mann-island-damage-has-been-well-and.html

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  • I cannot express my disappointment that the new museum by 3XN was ever allowed to be built. Pots, kettles?

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  • The AJ's photographer clearly has a fixation with one end of the building. Surely if we're to be able to judge the building we need more than one elevation to comment on?

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  • It's just as bad from other views.

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  • I think that both this building and the new Museum and MerseyTravel offices are an abomination.

    The Planners should hang their heads in shame at the ruination of the view from the Albert Dock, and from the ferries, prior to resigning their positions.

    If this were in London, Price Charles would have been all over it, but as it's in Liverpool, no one cares.

    Shame on the Architectural profession. Shame on the Planners.

    The city is the long term loser in this.

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  • I wrote "The AJ's photographer clearly has a fixation with one end of the building. Surely if we're to be able to judge the building we need more than one elevation to comment on?".

    Goodness! - someone actually reads these comments! Shortly afterwards I got a personal email and find another view published!

    It's clearly a building one has to see in reality to form a proper judgement on but I find the clash of the leaning walls and apertures at odds with the rectilinear glazing pattern. Surely a "chaotic" arrangement of glazing bars would have complemented the masonry?

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  • I've seen it in reality, I've seen it in context and trust me, the whole lot is a jumbled mess. The Three Graces v the Three Ugly Sisters sums it up. Liverpool council at its worst.

    I see that the Liverpool Preservation Trust blogspot has been updated.

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  • These "Architects" are also responsible for the butchered redesign of the Ulster Museum (http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/home/refurb-row-at-modern-museum/125695.article). It truly is awful, but just how did this win an international competition in the first place?

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  • for me it looks like a questionable scale issue, that & amount the first floor juts into the space. Im guessing that it might have been difficult to rescale the overhang without rescaling the whole building. I did just imagine the building without that overhang section (kind of flat reflective front) that way you could regained some space for the other buildings and monument (based on what I can see from the photos).

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  • The new terminal is a travesty - like an ugly scar on the fine face of Liverpool. It is [further] living proof that the planners and planning committee members of this city are utterly unfit for office and are a disgrace. They will be judged by future generations as incompetent fools who willfully destroyed one of the most important harbourscapes in the world as effectively as the Nazi bombers 70 years ago. What Liverpool needed was an elegant new terminal building that complemented the character of the port, what it got was a third rate dogs-dinner that looks like the world's largest public lavatory with a subsidence problem. I predict it will be pulled down or blown up within the next 20 years to resounding cheers just like similar piggeries thrown up in the 1960s to house the working classes.

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  • Steven Webb

    it all comes down to harmony.

    You wouldn'y wear a fishing hat with a dinner jacket for example.
    Something modern that pays 'harmonial tribute' to important landmark buildings around it would work better.

    If there are no important landmark buildings nearby, then this building should take center stage.
    As every 18 year old graphic design student will tell you, 'don't make the headline and the picture the same size'.

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  • Paul Eugene Ong

    Pure contrast...diversity against order.

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  • This is so 2006 thats when it won the competition apparently, the disappointment lies in a lack to communicate any substantial architectural issues (sustainability, improved cities, technological/digital revolution, looking nice) this building seems a poor rip of of fantastic Liebeskind or Rem Koolhaas projects at that time. This is one of those things that makes my non-architect friends/family think that me and the whole industry are complete idiots. I dont think that a forward thinking project is BAD for a UNESCO site only that a BAD project is BAD for any site. Maybe causing a stir was the intention, but it could have at least been more of what it tries to imitate.

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  • "Pure contrast...diversity against order."
    but where's it's real diversity, this building says very little - AND if it wants to be such a contrast it should be doing more. I suggest a second skin of biodiverse habitats, wind generators and solar panels also sophisticated landscaping that will allow the building to benfit the city in another dimension - make a statement about where our future should be headed.

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  • I stumbled across this post researching who designed these buildings from my photoblog. It's interesting to see so many negative comments - the majority of people I've talked to from Liverpool love this building. Whether it's just that it's an improvement on the sixties eyesore or genuinely loved only time will tell.

    In case you're interested, these are the photos I took of the building for my photoblog - here and here.

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  • I'll try that again:

    http://blog.formidablephotography.com/out-on-the-tiles/

    http://blog.formidablephotography.com/out-on-the-tiles-ii/

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  • What I cannot undertand with regard to this building is why the open area is facing the 3Graces. Every port facility that I have ever visited has face the water. You sit at a table watching the ships or the boats while you have a cup of tea and just pass the day away. You cannot see the water, a mistake in my opinion. It is not the most attractive of designs. The whole Pier Head area has become a hotch potch of different designs. The canal takes up too much space and the open area is not bigenough. I was told that this is to prevent the young people congregating there, which seems a bit drastic to me. The young of to-day are the customers of to-morrow and they need their space. Unfortunately Liverpool has become the victim of too many different schemes and the Council must be held responsible for this as it did not have an overall plan, just grabbed any developers suggestion and went with it and because of that we now have one of the untidiest skylines in the world.

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  • I have to say I was shocked at the design of the Ferry terminal, an opportunity to bring grace to the landing stage area and celebrate the iconic ferry service in the design. The eventual product jars the senses and although the colouring is in line with the canal structure, it has a clinical coldness. The building itself strikes me as Orwell versus The Flintstones. The other problem for the area is that whatever building was placed on that site there is still a walk across a grotty scaffold bridge to what looks like a scrap metal oil rig platform where you actually board the ferry. I genuinely feel that this building and the granite slabs on nearby Mann Island close to the hideous Grosvenor Apartments that look like a Wigan tecnichal college have been designed by people who don't give a damn about the heritage site or the area and their own egos in trying to be bold and controversial are disfiguring the entire area. The X museum allong the waterfront, like it or not is a modern design that is eyecatching and bold. I have heard some people say it looks marvellous but they regard the ferry terminal as a joke. It is a shame we could not have preserved the Victorian landing stage and based the terminal on that classic design. There is a place for modernism and boldness but it has to be something iconic and not resembling an upside down caravan. My own rather more whimsical take on the caravan theme is here.
    http://profchucklebuttychronic.blogspot.com/2009/07/terminal-architecture-at-world-heretic.html

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