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Fourth Grace architect blasts World Heritage officials

The lead architect behind Liverpool's troubled Fourth Grace project has blasted UNESCO over claims the scheme could threaten the city's World Heritage status.

Kim Herforth Nielsen, principal of 3XN architects, slammed UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and its advisory body, ICOMOS, over comments that his designs are 'too dominant'.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee ordered the visit after noting 'with great concern that the new museum building, next to the Three Graces, does not comply with the recommendation, as it is designed to be too dominant rather than recessive'.

Nielsen told the AJ about his disappointment over UNESCO's decision, and also about how long both World Heritage bodies had taken to enter into discussions with his practice.

'Once they have spoken to us they will see how we have kept the design low to the promenade,' he said. 'The building is subservient in comparison with the grand designs of the Three Graces, and that is why it has been granted planning permission.'

This is the latest in a long line of problems the Danish firm's Museum of Liverpool has faced, including another late intervention by ICOMOS at the planning stage of the scheme, but Nielsen believes the latest hiccup is nothing to be concerned about.

'We have been granted planning permission and it is always good to have an open dialogue with these people. We are intent on having these discussions with UNESCO and ICOMOS,' he said.

According to Nielsen, the project has the full backing of both English Heritage and CABE, and he is confident the scheme will go ahead.

'This is the first time [UNESCO] have asked for any talks or meetings with us. It is very poor,' he added.

'But we welcome the chance to talk with them. We want to explain to them that we plan to keep the World Heritage status - that is what the whole project is about.'

by Richard Vaughan

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