The awards honour the best new designs
Liverpool's best buildings
By Paul Coslett
How would you choose Liverpool’s best new buildings? The LAS Design Awards honours architecture that has made a mark on the city.
The buildings that have transformed Liverpool in the recent period of regeneration have been recognised by the Liverpool Architectural Society in their 2008 LAS Design Awards.
Founded in 1848 the Liverpool Architectural Society is one of the world's oldest architectural societies, linked to the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Mushtaq Saleri, President of the Liverpool Architectural Society says the awards give exposure to the numerous architects and designers working on projects who might not be recognised in RIBA's national or regional awards, "We just felt that because the national awards is so big a lot of local practices don’t always get recognition for some of their work in Liverpool, so we thought we’d try and break it down further."
Shortlisted Liver Street Car Park
Ben Johnson who recently completed a cityscape painting of Liverpool joined fellow judges Roger Stephenson of Stephenson Bell and Kieran Long editor of the Architects Journal to go through the shortlisted buildings.
The award’s summer deadline was too early for many of the designs of the new Liverpool One development to be included but Mushtaq Saleri says a building that did qualify is the Liver Street Car Park "The car park and link bridge which are by the same architect was one of the few Liverpool One schemes that was permitted.
The judges felt that as a brief a car park is a pretty awful brief, it’s a big blank space but what Wilkinson Eyre [the architects] have shown is that you can actually express it well, it’s detailed well, it can actually contribute to the city.
"It does say you can do something, you can be a bit more imaginative and it also shows that with a good client such as Grosvenor things like a link bridge which could easily have been a steel bridge with railings on it became one of the most interesting footbridges in this part of the world."
Overall Mushtaq thinks that the Liverpool One development has had a positive effect on the city centre, "What’s good about things in Liverpool One is you start to see where investment linked with quality can make a difference and actually there’s some interesting design there.
"You look at some other cities which have had new shopping centres, there’s one in Derby that is very much a solid block that’s been dropped on the city.
"Here with different designers there’s actually a good variety."
Liverpool has a wealth of historical architecture with many groundbreaking buildings in the city centre, Mushtaq Saleri is particularly fond of the Grade 1 listed Oriel Chambers on Water Street which includes a cast iron frame with a glass facade, "You can walk past Oriel Chambers and not realise the historical context and importance and that it’s such an important building," Mushtaq explains.
"Also the Royal Liver Building, not necessarily for the iconic nature of it, but the construction technique and the cladding system was a forerunner of a lot of high rise skyscrapers.
"It’s important we’ve got that historical backdrop, I do some teaching at the university and we’re lucky here because we can use a lot of buildings to show students and they can learn directly from buildings rather than looking in magazines.
The award judges
"You can take them down and show them Oriel Chambers."
Despite the considerable investment in the city centre Mushtaq says he’s still concerned for some of the older buildings and laments some of the losses of the post war period, "There are so many examples of buildings at risk.
"The Sailors’ Home that I never got a chance to see, but you could see the remnants of it.
"I remember as a student doing research about that building.
"Also across the road the Casartelli building that fell down and has been rebuilt, but there is the question of ‘Is it authentic?’
"You find examples of that everywhere you go in Liverpool, it’s probably no more different than other cities but its disappointing when you know that there was quality there before.
"However we shouldn’t dwell too much but make sure that the historic buildings we’re left with we can find good uses for.
The Casartelli building was demolished.
"There are a lot of buildings in Liverpool that need some interesting solutions; it is just finding people with the vision to implement those solutions that is tricky."
The current credit crunch may have some impact on the areas construction industry but Mushtaq hopes it won’t be too deep, “Hopefully the current financial crisis won’t affect the city as much as others, I think its inevitable in the next few years we’ll see some schemes perhaps not moving so quickly as we thought they would.
The buildings included in the 2008 awards stand in stark contrast to earlier examples erected when there was less investment in Liverpool
"Comparing building now with some that were put up 15 years ago there’s very little comparison you can make as they’re so different," Mushtaq Saleri says.
"Just walking along The Strand you can see the infill buildings there that were put up in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, and there’s just no response to context.
"I think when you look at comparing architecture and art for example the difference is you can choose not to go into an art gallery whereas people can’t choose not to walk past or use a building every day of the year.
"That’s the good and bad thing about architecture, everyone is a critic and everyone has to engage with architecture."
last updated: 08/10/2008 at 14:18
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