Friday, 3 July 2015

Liverpool: wonderful architecture, stunning city

I had to visit Liverpool on Monday to look at some radiology systems, and a bit of online research suggested that it would be a good idea to visit the city as well, so we decided to go up on Saturday morning and spend the weekend there.

Liverpool has a marvellous architectural heritage, with outstanding buildings dating from the Georgian period and onwards. Despite exceptionally heavy bombing during the Second World War, it has more listed buildings than any city after London and Bristol, more Georgian houses than Bath, and more public sculpture than anywhere in the UK, after the City of Westminster. Six areas in the docklands and historic city have UNESCO World Heritage Site status, as an example of a Maritime Mercantile City.

I was struck by the not just by quality of the architecture I saw around me, but also in particular by the visual coherence of the city centre. In fact, I think Liverpool might be architecturally the most attractive city I've seen in England. Some of this must be due to the way the city was laid out, but I'm sure that it's also due to the constraints placed on new developments in order to maintain its World Heritage status: limitations on the heights of of new buildings, and so on. However, it's worrying that because of proposed new developments in the northern docklands,  Liverpool's World Heritage status is currently under threat.

During this short stay, I couldn't see as much of the as I would have liked, partly because I spent quite a lot of time in some of the excellent museums (the Museum of Liverpool, the Bluecoat, and the Maritime Museum, and there were others I would have liked to have visited too), but I've decided that I must return for a longer trip.

Here are some pictures I took with my iPhone.

Pier Head, the iconic Liverpool waterfront with its three great Edwardian buildings

From Right to left:
Royal Liver Building,  by Walter Aubrey Thomas (1908-11)
Cunard Building, by Willink and Thicknesse, with Arthur J Davis (1914-16)
Former Mersey Docks and Harbour Board headquarters, by Briggs and Wolstenholme, with Hobbs and Thornely (1903-7)

In front of them the Mersey Ferry Terminal, by Hamilton architects (completed 2009). I thought it was OK, but in 2009 in won the "Carbuncle Cup", awarded by Building Design magazine for the worst new building of the year.

Royal Liver Building, by Walter Aubrey Thomas (1908-11)

Cunard Building, by Willink and Thicknesse, with Arthur J. Davis (1914-16)

I was also much taken by the massive art deco George's Dock Ventilation and Control Station. The tower houses the ventilation shaft for the Queensway Tunnel under the Mersey. The control station and offices are housed in the base that surrounds it.

George's Dock Ventilation and Control Station, Pier Head, by Herbert J. Rowse (1931-4)



Relief sculpture on George Dock Ventilation and Control Station. 
Speed - The Modern Mercury, by Edmund C. Thompson assisted by George T. Capstick

Detail from George Dock Ventilation and Control Station

A selection of other buildings I liked:

White Star Line offices, James Street, by Norman Shaw (1895-8)
(The company that owned the Titanic)

Former Leyland and Bullin's Bank, corner of Castle and Brunswick Street, 
by Grayson & Ould (1895, with extension in 1900)

Municipal Buildings, Dale Street, by John Wightman and E.R. Robinson (1862-8)

Former Great George Street Congregational Church, by Joseph Franklin (1840-1), 
Chinese Arch, designed and made in China by Shanghai Linyi Garden Building Co. Ltd 
(completed 2000)

Scandinavian Seamens' Church: 
Gustav Adolfs Kyrka, Park Lane, by W.D. Caröe (1883-4)

Chancery House, Paradise Street, by James Strong of Walker and Strong (1899). 

Built as the Gordon Smith Institute for Seamen with library, reading room and assembly hall for sailors ashore. I'm not sure what it's intended use is right now, but I'm rather pleased that the scheme illustrated below has not been executed yet, and I rather hope it doesn't come to fruition. I dread to think what they would have done if the UNESCO rules had not been in place.

Church House, Hanover Street and Paradise Street, by George Enoch Grayson (opened 1885). Originally and institute of the Mersey Mission to Seamen with chapel and meeting rooms, and a temperance pub. Now home to a restaurant.

Former Bank of England, Castle Street, by C.R. Cockerell (1846-8)

Town Hall, by John Wood (1749-54); 
dome (completed 1802) and portico (completed 1811) by James Wyatt

Chapel Street: Hargreaves Buildings by J.A. Picton (1859), 
and the tower of Our Lady and St Thomas by Thomas Harrison (1811-15)

The waterfront. In the foreground, a Superlambanana, one of the modern symbols of Liverpool. On the water, the Dazzle Ferry, a Mersey Ferry painted in a dazzle pattern designed by Peter Blake.

View from the apartment we rented, with our favourite seagull on the balcony

These are the two guidebooks I bought during the trip:

I liked them both, but please note that the Pevsner guide was published in 2004. The Wallpaper guide is also available as an iPhone and iPad app.
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