Liverpool One: Public Realm, Regeneration & Conservation

4 01 2011

by Aaron Murphy

This blog documents my recent day trip to Liverpool One. Since hearing much praise for the development, and since the scheme won the RIBA Sterling Prize in 2009, I have been looking for an opportunity to go and visit the area for myself. Whilst adding up my Christmas ‘earnings’ last week it struck me that a trip to Liverpool One would prove the perfect opportunity for an educational visit combined with a spot of retail therapy!

After spending about half an hour getting lost in the Queensway Tunnel, ending up on the wrong side of the water in Birkenhead, and paying the man in the tunnel toll booth £1.40 twice, I finally arrived at Liverpool One. The first thing that struck me was how expensive the car parking was; £10 for four hours, it must be better than Manchester!

Although the last time I visited Liverpool was many years ago, I remember the area and particularly the shopping well, due to spending many afternoons shopping with my parents, whilst waiting for our passports to be developed at Liverpool Passport Office. I remember that the main shopping area was located away from the Docks and that the area around the Docks looked industrial, dismal and run down. Therefore, I was surprised to see that Liverpool One had effectively moved the centre of Liverpool down towards the Albert Docks waterfront, (an area which has also seen much remodelling through an EDAW Masterplan) and created a bright and vibrant extension to the city centre. My first impressions of the area were overwhelmingly positive.

The mixed use development Liverpool One opened in 2008 and consists briefly of a mix of shopping, hotels, restaurants, apartments, car parking and public space, built in 45 acres around Paradise Street. One thing that struck me was the size and number of shops in the area. I had heard that Liverpool women or ‘WAGS’ love to shop, but had no idea how true this was. The array of shops and choice of products far outweigh those available in other cities such as Manchester and Newcastle. Another thing that struck me was the open spaces, and how well they were used, many areas were populated with bustling outdoor seating and pedestrian activity. The area seemed to combine culture, leisure, and retail in one area, which at the same time connected users with other parts of the city. However, shopping aside, the main thing that impressed me about the scheme was the quality of the public realm and the level of conservation alongside modern intervention.

The area consists of a series of interesting open spaces which are creatively linked by interesting, colourful walkways, lined with colourful street furniture, interesting facades, attractive paving, usable seating, convert able kiosks, brightly lit stairways and coherent materials and architectural styles. These aspects are what makes the area successful, and what adds to the experience of the pedestrian. In addition, historic buildings around the site add character and identity. It is evident that efforts to maintain the areas heritage were central to the aims of its masterplan. Historic buildings are commonly found adjacent to modern, glass structures and the relationship is nothing if not satisfying. In my opinion the public realm in the area combined with the sensitive re-use of historic buildings alongside bespoke modern development is what makes Liverpool One successful.

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