The opening of the Festival took place on Mann Island in what is a quite marvellous space between the two controversial black granite facia-ed ( yes granite!) buildings developed by Neptune. Everybody will have their own opinion on the buildings and the impact they have on the views of the Three Graces but one body has already made their view plain by taking space in one of the buildings.
The Royal Institute of British Architects will be taking office space in The Equator and have exciting plans to develop a Liverpool Architecture Foundation which will be a valuable addition to Liveprool's cultural offering.
The opening was a great opportunity for me to meet up again with my good friend Belinda Irlam-Mowbray, RIBA's Regional Director.
Belinda has been a fearsome advocate of the architecture profession in the North West for a number of years and is hoping to base the profession's centre of excellence in Liverpool. She wants to see architects and architectural enthusiasts engaging more with the public.
Last November Belinda and her colleagues invited me to join them in a visit to Chicago to see how the Chicago Architecture Foundation operates in that city. As their website explains,The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) "is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public interest and education in architecture and design." (http://caf.architecture.org/) CAF organises tours, exhibitions, debates, lectures, educational programmes and other activites as it seeks to advance public awareness of Architecture and Design. It provides a good model on which to build a Liverpool Architecture Foundation.
The debates in Liverpool at the moment, such as the merits of the new Neptune buildings, the impact on the Heritage of the City of new developments and whether Peel's proposals for Liverpool Waters should be given planning permission or not, would I am sure be enhanced by a more interactive process between the architecture profession and the public.
Prentice Women's Hospital
While the major debates in Liverpool at the moment are about the loss of heritage which is generally synonomous with "old" in England, the current debate in Chicago is about the potential loss of a building which was only opened in 1975. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, "The fate of the former Prentice Women’s Hospital in Streeterville has become the first significant land use controversy of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, and activists hope they can pressure him to save a building they regard as an architectural gem."
Preservation Chicago's website calls the building an "architectural icon" and the building has been named as one of the "National Trust for Historic Preservation's 11 Most Endangeredbuildings." One , understandably, has not heard this kind of argument advanced in defence of the Liverpool Royal concrete monstrosity.
So in a different context, city, and culture the debates in Chicago mirror those in Liverpool. CAF contributes to this debate by organising "The Chicago Debates" where, CAF announces,
"We’ll debate on……
• Economic development vs. historic preservation
• Are modernist structures significant enough to save?
• Why is there a lack of aesthetic appreciation concerning modernist architecture?
• When do you keep a building? When do tear it down? When do you compromise?
• Is landmarking a legal thing?
• When does the value to the property owner outweigh the value to society’s cultural heritage? "
I look forward, hopefully, to a Liverpool Architecture Foundation becoming a catalyst for debate on these issues as it develops in Liverpool. This could only enhance the current debate and perhaps lead to more clarity and understanding as Liverpool seeks to forge its own architectural future.