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Thread: Is Liverpool's architectural boom all it's cracked up be? (an article)

  1. #1
    Member scottieroader's Avatar
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    Default Is Liverpool's architectural boom all it's cracked up be? (an article)

    Liverpool needs great modern architecture and it needs tall buildings… but what it needs are visionary and original designs which will set Liverpool apart as a city of architecture. Look how the Guggenheim defines Bilbao; the Opera House defines Sydney and the Gherkin defines the city of London… we want the architectural equivalent of the Lamborghini Countach or the Mini, classics of design; instead we get the Unity and Beetham towers, the architectural equivalents of the Ford Mondeo. ‘Executive’ and ‘corporate’ styles, which lack originality because the developers are first and foremost concerned with making a profit and at low risk; and the easiest way to do that is to not rock the boat, stick to what works. The ‘visionary’ new architecture in Liverpool is so ridiculously similar to that in Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds that you could almost write a brochure on how to build a tower block in a northern city:


    ADVERTISING




    1. Opaque glass cladding sells, light blue and green are the colours of preference
    2. Lozenge shaped buildings with very gently curving facades are in.
    3. Buildings should rise straight out of the ground with no features of interest until you get to the top, there the building should slope or step back like the end of knife.

    We have seen some originality in individual buildings such as the slender rectangular Manchester Hilton and the box-topped Unity, but even then, the fact that so many aspects of these buildings are similar should ring alarm bells.

    Yuppies are taken in by developers’ intense marketing and believe that they are truly living in a work of architectural wonder and the heritage lobby know they don’t like it but don’t know why; leaving themselves open to accusations that they are just bashing it because it’s modern.

    People who point the finger of blame at developers are often reminded of the no-holds barred commercialism of Victorian builders as if this similarity means that architecture such as Unity is no different from the likes of the Liver Building. But there is one crucial difference between then and now… corporatism. The builders of 19th century office buildings, factories and housing estates were often run and owned by rich individuals, or a small group of close knit businessmen. They could take personal pride in what they were building, the spirit of philanthropy ran high and they wanted something which they could point to and say ‘I did that’. In the modern world of distant boards of directors based in London and New York, banks demanding business plans and thousands of shareholders wanting accountability, this pride in what you build cannot exist because no single person sees it as their baby. Even the architects may find their influence diluted by the influence of other architects and worst of all… of accountants.

    Also, let’s not forget that in the years since Victorian Liverpool was built, the poor quality buildings have been removed leaving only the best. You can’t compare the Victorian buildings left standing today to just any modern building as we know the older buildings have passed the test of time which the modern buildings are yet to face. Put this way it is easy to see why the old building in Liverpool today are inherently ‘better’ than what you might build now. We need to try and build the buildings that will stand alongside our Victorian buildings as the heritage of the future.

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    Senior Member petromax's Avatar
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    I think you are right to suggest that it is difficult to get good buildings when the owners haven't got the same sense of personal involvement.

    More importantly, the power of buildings to advertise wealth and reliability has lost ground to advertising on the television and the accessibility of the internet. Just look at the strength of the Bank of England in Castle street and compare it with any of the desperately impoverished national bank branches in the city. To bank in Martin's Banking Hall in Water Street must have made customers feel very special. I'd rather bank on the internet that go into the HSBC slum at the bottom of Bold Street!

    Look at the Gherkin in London. No amount of mass TV marketing is going to help Swiss Re impress their niche market clients of how safe their hedge insurance schemes are (?). But a great building does wonders for their niche market within the City of London and that's what they commissioned. Look at Lloyd's; like it or hate it - it was cutting edge and a class act.

    Striking and attractive buildings are sought were image matters or in a competitive market. Hence the residential towers get some attention (and St Paul's will up Liverpool's game a bit).

    Having said that Manchester's Beetham Tower is a second rate rip off of an excellent Dominic Perrault design for a similar brief in France and Peel's central docks looks like a cutout session from a particularly nasty little architectural magazine from Dubai.

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    Member scottieroader's Avatar
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    If I could just add another point to the point I ended my article on. Even now, the worst of post-war architecture is starting to fade away are more and more we are left with the best of it, such as Trellick Tower and Liverpool's Radio City Tower. It's because of this thinning out of the crap over time that it's inevitable that the ugly buildings in any city are most likely to be the modern ones.

  4. #4
    PhilipG
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    I like both Beetham Towers in Liverpool, but not the one in Manchester.
    The Atlantic Tower Hotel is my favourite post-war building in Liverpool.
    It always reminds me of the prow of a ship.
    Sorry, forgot the Metropolitan Cathedral.
    I don't like St John's Tower (never did).
    It still looks like a chimney, which was the main reason for its existence.
    And the advertising for Radio City is so tacky, and shouldn't have been allowed.
    Last edited by PhilipG; 09-21-2007 at 08:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilipG View Post
    I like both Beetham Towers in Liverpool, but not the one in Manchester.
    Seriously... I live in a flat from which I can see the original Beetham Tower... I have looked and looked and still I cannot see any architectural merit in it. was it designed by an accountant? It is by some margin the ugliest building in Liverpool... and I include the New Penny Farthing and James Street station in that.

    I guarantee that in thirty years time, when we look back at noughties architecture the same way we look back at sixties architecture now, the Old Beetham will be one of the first to be demolished.

    My favourite post war buildings (now demolished) I think were the Everton Park and Shiel Park concrete blocks and the Festival Garden Dome... I'm also a big fan of (not a building) the Churchill Way Flyovers and the Strand overpass (soon to be demolished), the radio city tower as mentioned before and Norwich House (facing the Oriel buildings across Rumford Place in a sort of sixties take on the oriel window)
    Last edited by scottieroader; 09-22-2007 at 03:42 AM.

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    PhilipG
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottieroader View Post
    Seriously... I live in a flat from which I can see the original Beetham Tower... I have looked and looked and still I cannot see any architectural merit in it. was it designed by an accountant? It is by some margin the ugliest building in Liverpool... and I include the New Penny Farthing and James Street station in that.

    I guarantee that in thirty years time, when we look back at noughties architecture the same way we look back at sixties architecture now, the Old Beetham will be one of the first to be demolished.

    My favourite post war buildings (now demolished) I think were the Everton Park and Shiel Park concrete blocks and the Festival Garden Dome... I'm also a big fan of (not a building) the Churchill Way Flyovers and the Strand overpass (soon to be demolished), the radio city tower as mentioned before and Norwich House (facing the Oriel buildings across Rumford Place in a sort of sixties take on the oriel window)
    It's a free country, and we all have different tastes, but those buildings you've mentioned (which I've highlighted) are disliked by most architectural authorities.
    I also loved the IGF dome.

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