December 15, 2004

Signs Of New Life In The 'Pool

This is the second half of the write-up of my recent trip to Liverpool; the first half being my tour of the Biennial. In addition to seeing some of the art, I wanted to just catch up with the city - see what has happened to some of the parts I've not visited in a few years, and explore some areas new to me.

And as I had my camera with me, there were plenty of photos taken of the varied types of architecture...

Grand Buildings

Liverpool has a number of rather grand public buildings. Keeping watch over the city are the two cathedrals: the Roman Catholic Metropolitan, affectionally known as Paddy's Wigwam; and the Anglican, the largest Anglican cathedral in Britain and Europe. The Anglican celebrates the centenary of the laying of its foundation stone this year, although rather amazingly the Metropolitan was finished first - in 1967, eleven years before the Anglican was fully complete.

There are more grand buildings to be found on William Brown Street - The Walker (below right), the Liverpool Museum (below left), and St. Georges Hall. I didn't get any photos of St. Georges Hall, as it's currently under wraps being restored.

Still Plenty Of Old Life

Of course the best known building in Liverpool is the Liver Building, but if you walk away from the river, up Water Street and into the central business district, you'll find a collection of other fine office blocks also from the first half of the twentieth century.

At the bottom of Water Street are the Tower Buildings, the offices where my grandfather spent most of his working life, now being converted into luxury apartments. Further up on the same side is the Martins Bank Building, with even closer family ties - my Mum worked here, in the architecture department, until I was born. By then, Martins Bank had merged with Barclays and the building, with its grand banking hall, is still used as a branch today.

That's more than can be said for rival NatWest building almost opposite. It was the doors to this building that really caught my eye, the photo doesn't convey the scale of the doors or of the panthers staring out at you. The doorway must be at least twelve feet high, which means that even someone over six-foot tall only comes eye-to-eye with the big cats. The whole building is currently available to let; I think it'll be a few years before MCQN needs so much space (or is able to pay the 150k/year rent) but wouldn't it be cool to go through such a doorway each day into the office?

Signs Of New Life

Back down at the waterfront, the regeneration of the docklands continues apace. I doubt that much of what's finished will end up Grade II listed in a hundred years, but it's putting the dockland back to use, and some of the planned towers look suitably impressive.

The Royal Quay apartments look nearly abandoned on the car park for the Albert Dock, and seem almost a pastiche of their 19th century warehouse neighbours. I can't quite put my finger on why, but they seem rather bland - perhaps it's the colour of the walls, or the lack of symmetry.

Developments on the other side of the Pier Head are more promising. There's already the new Radisson Hotel and Beetham Tower, and a number of office blocks on Princes Dock. They could all quite happily be dumped into any number of business parks anywhere in the country without anyone noticing; so they aren't too exciting, but that buildings which wouldn't be out of place on the M4-corridor are being built is a promising sign for the confidence of the city. There's a noticeable contrast between the two photographs below, both taken from the same spot, just at 180° intervals - the dilapidated moorings on the river vs. the cranes and new offices around the dock.

The cranes are constructing (I think) a new multi-storey car park; just off to the left of the picture, work has commenced on the new Conran-designed City Lofts development; and a raft of other projects are going through planning. There's a good round-up of all the developments over at

So there's a level of activity and a number of cranes in and around the docks which hasn't been seen for years; but rather than loading and unloading cargoes, they're creating the next wave of business for the 'Pool.

Posted by Adrian at December 15, 2004 08:43 AM | TrackBack

This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

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Really interesting read that! :)

Posted by: Andrew at December 15, 2004 02:58 PM
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