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If you have problems with Mann Island, it’s sobering to realise that, for every completed new build in our city, hundreds never make it past the CAD models of an architect’s computer. Some get compromised by budgets, others fail to win competitions, and all too many fall victim to the vagaries of planning, destined to forever stay on the drawing board.

Looking back through images of lost-and-never-had Liverpool makes for a disconcerting trip back in time to a place that might have existed in the future – sort of like Looper, but without the plot holes and gore.

Some were pipe dreams, and some were serious proposals; some of the schemes are frustratingly near misses, and all, we’ve no doubt, invoked heated debate down the decades. So, looking back, which schemes do you yearn for, and for which do you thank the Gods of planning that they never saw so much as a foundation stone laid? We asked RIBA architect Paul Ashton to show us around some of the city’s most curious schemes that never were…

Design for the Waterfront by HC Bradshaw

This speculative 1913 design for the Liverpool waterfront by HC Bradshaw is something of a fantasy and a far cry from today’s cityscape. Bradshaw has conveniently ‘fogged out’ the city behind the main line of buildings adjoining the river which suggest the islands of Venice. The current Pier Head buildings can be seen near the campanile-like skyscraper to the right of the image.

Source: Charles Reilly & The Liverpool School of Architecture, Liverpool University Press

Design for the Waterfront by Stanley Adshead

In 1910, Stanley Adshead submitted this scheme to the Town Planning Review. He depicts a confident city expanding to the north along the river (rather than around a retail core as it has today). The current Pier Head buildings are positively dwarfed by an ambitious line of buildings centered around a large piazza at the end of what looks like Leeds Street.

Source: Charles Reilly & The Liverpool School of Architecture, Liverpool University Press


Liverpool Cathedral by Charles Reilley

This rendering shows an entry for the competition to design Liverpool Cathedral by the highly influential Charles Reilly. It is not unusual for unbuilt ideas to be re used in other buildings. In this case, Reilly’s design strongly influenced the dome of the Port of Liverpool building after it was added to the scheme relatively late in the design process.

Source: Charles Reilly & The Liverpool School of Architecture, Liverpool University Press

Lutyens Cathedral

Edwin Lutyens’s design for the Metropolitan Cathedral has been described by some as “the greatest building never built”. The model of the building can be seen in the Museum of Liverpool and is an impressive object in itself, but this CGI render illustrates how the completed building would have looked. The awe inspiring, overreaching scale of the cathedral would have dominated Hope Street, the skyline and the city as a whole (main pic and above).

Source: The work of a student at Manchester University, further information unavailable.

Masterplan Centred on Lutyens Cathedral

This sketch masterplan of unknown origin proposes that the entire pre-war city be re-centred around the Lutyens Cathedral (as opposed to the waterfront). This may prove to be little more than an architecture student’s fantasy, but we’ve have included here simply because it shows such an intriguing ‘alternative universe’ version of Liverpool.

Source: Doug Roberts on the Skyscraper City forums.

Albert Dock Skyscrapers

Drawn up in the 1960s (with unimaginable disregard for the historic fabric of the city), this masterplan erased the Albert and Kings Docks and replaced them with skyscrapers. The developer was Oldham Estates and the scheme was described as a ‘mini city’ that would provide hotels, restaurants, bars and underground parking in the drained dock basin.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Dock

Chavasse Park

In 2001 Philip Johnson, Studio BAAD and Cecil Balmond designed this mega-structure for Chavasse park. It was to be a two-storey retail arcade linking the city centre to the Albert Dock and was notable for its exceptionally complex roof (not dissimilar to the Eden Project’s biodomes). The Chavasse Park area, which was formed as a result of bomb damage suffered during the blitz added little to the city until Liverpool ONE was eventually built on the site.

Source: http://www.pjar.com/pdf/Chavasses_Park.pdf

Everton Kings Dock

Everton FC was the preferred developer to build a stadium at Kings Dock until 2002, when the scheme came to an end as the club was unable to raise the funds. We may have ended up with an arena on the Kings Dock anyway, but this would surely have been one of the most spectacular settings for a football stadium anywhere in the world.

Source: http://www.toffeeweb.com/club/kings-dock/new-stadium.asp

Brunswick Quay Tower

The elegant, angular glass Brunswick Quay Tower was designed by Ian Simpson, the architect of Manchester’s Beetham Tower. It would have been of roughly the same height as the Manchester tower and was to be positioned far to the south of the Pier Head in the Toxteth section of the docks. It did not obtain planning permission in 2006 after a public enquiry.

Source: http://www.skyscrapernews.com/news.php?ref=781

Fourth Grace by Will Alsop

Looking at this hallucinogenic rendering now, the decision to award Will Alsop the ‘Fourth Grace’ commission was certainly an adventurous one. I first encountered the practice of referring to the buildings at the Pier Head as ‘graces’ as a piece of marketing in the late nineties. 

To my mind, the term the ‘three graces’ implies there were only ever meant to be three. In my opinion, the buildings at the Pier Head should not be thought of as the only three but rather, the first three of a heroic line of buildings reinforcing the importance of the waterfront.

Seen this way, the idea of a fourth ‘grace’ makes more sense. The idea of a string of spectacular buildings (call them graces if you must) harks back to the Edwardian sketches of the waterfront made at the height of Liverpool’s architectural exuberance.

Source: http://stevocreative.com/

  • http://twitter.com/philipstratford Philip Stratford

    Fascinating set of pictures, I bet you could have listed several more. I’ve never seen the CG images of the Lutyens cathedral – they really do put it into persepective. My favourite idea that never was is of that huge plaza on the waterfront, though. That would have been something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/markshipsides Mark Anthony Sullivan

    There was also a plan to turn The Strand into an underground tunnel, from around Leeds Street to Upper Parliament, this would have created a traffic free park area between the waterfront and the commercial area, This would have been brilliant with the retention of the Dockers Umbrella. You could imagine a very efficient park and ride system from both the North and South, making the city centre and waterfront traffic free apart from local transport.

  • Littoral

    Excellent. We need more of this guy.

  • richard

    The Albert Dock Skyscraper’s could have been something, but in a different area.

  • Peter Martyn

    Great street-level view towards the Lutyens pile. Dream, dream, dream, but much of the new stuff is too much of an imposition on the pre-‘urban renaissance’ phase.