Friday, 17 June 2011

Chicago- our kind of town?

On Thursday  I helped open the Liverpool Waterfront Architecture Festival The festival runs until the 26th June and I am both delighted and sorry to tell you that most of the events have already been sold out.

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.

Belinda Irlam-Mowbray
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." ( 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 Endangered buildings." 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.  


  1. You have to laugh....... the RIBA North West representative is the architect for the three black coffins on Mann Island and guess where they start a tour.

    Its no good now abandoning these eyesores they were council sponsored and you were part of that sponsorship Mr Kennedy.
    We have had enough of this drivel.
    As for public debate you dont want public debate while selling out our world heritage site to the highest bidder which is now Peel Holdings.
    Unesco said the public should be educated, first the council need educating as the fact that they are not holding debate, and even when it is done it will be a whitewash goes against all heritage arguments.
    The city council under Joe Anderson are making all the same mistakes as the last lot of characters who have left us with heritage assets now looking alien in their own landscape.
    Joe Anderson is far too close to Frank McKenna and the likes, to see first hand what disasters are unfolding...well maybe, but does he care.

    Do you really care Mr Kennedy??????????????

  2. I care more when comments are actually true. The RIBA NW representative you refer to is not even an architect. The Architects were actually Broadway Malyan. I do really care and I care enough to be well informed also.


    Architect’s RIBA role to promote design excellence
    Jul 2 2009
    by Alistair Houghton, Liverpool Daily Post
    Add a commentRecommend ARCHITECT Matt Brook has been elected to represent the region on the profession’s governing body.

    Mr Brook, who opened Broadway Malyan’s Liverpool office in 2007, will serve as a North West representative on the Royal Institute of British Architects’ National Council.

    The council plans RIBA’s strategic policy and its work to promote design excellence.

    Liverpool John Moores University graduate Mr Brook, 34, is the youngest director at Broadway Malyan, which has offices worldwide. He designed the Mann Island development on Liverpool’s waterfront and worked on plans for a new “green” office development at 30 Pall Mall in Liverpool.

    His fellow North West representative on the council will be Simone Ridyard, of 3D Reid, in Manchester. They will each serve a three-year term.

    Mr Brook said: “One of the great things about RIBA is that the council has strong regional representation. It’s recognition that innovation and excellence are not just things that happen in London.

    “There has been a fantastic architectural renaissance in the North West.

    “This is testimony to the talent and creativity that we have within the profession in this region, but also the progressive and energetic role that RIBA North West has played in helping to raise the profile of architecture and the value of a good quality built environment.

    “I want to repay the confidence that has been put in me by RIBA members by advocating for the North West and ensuring that what is happening here is recognised and promoted.”

    RIBA North West Regional Director Belinda Irlam-Mowbray said: “We have always aimed to ensure that this region plays an active and influential role at national level, and with Matt representing us that is sure to happen. He is one of the new generation of North West architects who has been transforming the physical fabric of our towns and cities with innovative and exciting buildings. I think he will be a great advocate for the region.”

    Mr Brook has also been reappointed to the Northwest Design Review Panel of leading architects, town planners and urban designers. The panel offers advice to developers and local authorities on how to improve the quality of major developments.

    Charlotte Myhrum, of design centre Places Matter, said: “As a respected, experienced architect, Matt Brook is an enthusiastic and supportive contributor to the panel, providing a broad understanding of design in buildings and the wider urban context.”

    Please understand that you are not dealing with your usual people involved in regeneration when you deal with the Liverpool Preservation Trust you are talking to educated people who dont like to be spoken down to by people who are carefully placed to tow the council line, no matter of pretty words will hide the fact you are there to facilitate Peel Holdings.................

  4. I have released this rather lengthy comment from my spam collector in order not to be accused of censorship by the Liverpool Preservation Trust I would simply comment that the only RIBA representative referred to in my blog entry was Belinda Irlam Mowbray who is of course not an architect.

    One of course can't verify Wayne's claim that the people represented by the Trust are educated people as they ( if indeed it is a "they") are never identified.

    I am more inclined to believe my favourite blog entry about the Trust

  5. Yes always remember you are a paid employee of the city council and the people of Liverpool pay your wages not the developers.