A generation ago, our Council leaders had a bright idea. They wanted us to never make contact with the ground again. But we weren’t promised jetpacks, just dimly lit corridors in the sky.
Take a closer look at Moorfields station. It has the dubious distinction of being the world’s only underground railway station where passengers from the street have to ascend to the first floor concourse before they can descend beneath the surface to catch their train.
“Liverpool’s devotion to rebuilding is nothing new,” says Emeritus Professor Simon Pepper, of Liverpool University’s School of Architecture. “For a long time, the council was Britain’s number one when it came to pulling things down. It kept on long after other cities more realistically switched to refurbishing their valued older buildings.”
“We’ve seen whole phases of design ideas, one wave after another. The elevated pedestrian pavement network of the late 1960s was a complete disaster. Students of major postwar civic blunders still come to savour a remnant of this particularly ill-conceived planner’s paradigm,” he says.
It was, says Professor Pepper, a direct result of our addiction to petrol that lead to the scheme: “Without doubt the biggest impact on our cities and towns was the explosive growth in motorised road vehicles since 1945. As a result, civic engineers were given unprecedented authority to rip up established communities and commercial areas, driving through new roads to resolve the traffic problem.”
The streets in the sky never really did take off. But, curiously, its legacy remains. When it was first proposed, the planners talked about how they’d taken as their model Chester’s first floor ‘rows’ – a 12th century civic construction that still works today.
Odd then that, in Liverpool ONE, those first floor walkways have returned and – by all accounts – arrived to save the city’s fortunes.
Maybe our Council leaders were just too ahead of their time?