We love Liverpool ONE – we salute the vibrancy it’s brought to the city centre, and the cash, of course. But we’re saddened to see that one of its few kooky corners, that of Keys Court, is scheduled to be demolished, to make way for something altogether more, well, nondescript. At least, that’s the plan (application number 12F/1422).

This tiled, jagged ziggurat is perhaps the only independently minded enclave of the massive scheme – and, as such, is the natural home for such pop-up wonders as the Made Here store we praised fulsomely recently. Proprieter Kate couldn’t, at the time, praise LiverpoolONE enough either, singling out their ‘can do’ attitude to ‘easy in and out’ tenants, willing to brighten up this processional route into the bling corridor of Peters Lane. Here, amid the Kuonis and the Boss emporia, you’ll see the sleek black granite and engineering brick of Haworth Tompkins and Dixon Jones’ RIBA-winning treatment.

And very stylish and lovely it is too.

But it works because of the juxtaposition of its cheeky and brash next door neighbour. It’s like the Desperate Scousewives cast have moved in next door to the Made in Chelsea gang. And Liverpool loves nothing better than a clash of cultural stereotypes.

When LiverpoolONE opened – or, rather, just before – it made great store of promising a vibrant mini-mall of local traders, offering a pleasing counterpoint to the big name retail we, equally, craved. As it should – because all city centres need both. SevenStreets has just returned from Portugal – where cities from Porto to Lisbon offer that rich, essential mix of the big name chain next to the esoteric local. Ah well, you know the score, we don’t need to labour the point.

Seems Grosvenor is disappointed by the relatively thin pickings along this stretch. And, to be fair, they have a point. We’ve never been in Tie Rack. But don’t shoot the shop fronts. These are the best bits – designed by the hot-right-now FAT architects: an internationally acclaimed practice who’ve made their mark in an otherwise sleek and serviceable (but ever so slightly monochrome, apart from the staircase) shopping centre.

FAT’s response was to use references that include ornamental and decorative street furniture as well as, in their words, “the tiled and patterned facades of the Victorian buildings of Liverpool”. And they did it with style, humour and eye-popping chutzpah. If a building ever said new Liverpool, it was their Liverpool Pavilion. So we’ll be gutted to see it go.

Its spaces, too, were deliberate: the series of facets along it alter the buildings’ interior shapes and provide niches for seating and views into Church Yard from the first floor cafe and ground floor retail units. And it’s the perfect place for small to medium local stores to dip their foot into the retail world. The plan is to turn this huddle of mini stores into a ‘single storey pavilion building comprising two retail units’ – in other words, say goodbye to pop ups and tiny, bazaar-like stalls.

Come on Grosvenor. Your tenancy residency is beating all expectations. Heck, Harvey Nicks is about to open. Have a heart – give this space to us. Let us animate it, feed it and nurture it to life. Give the place over to the city: allow us to shape it, own it, breathe some passion and independence into it. Like they do in similar schemes in Malmo, Lyon and Berlin: and allow the city to show you what it can do. Tie Rack? Sorry, but that’s never gonna set pulses racing, is it?

If you straighten out our kinks and jagged edges, you’ll have separated the Liverpool from the One.

(You can place objections on the city’s planning portal here.

  • http://www.lazy-genius.co.uk Tom Valentine Johnson

    Brilliant piece as ever David!

  • http://thenorthernist.wordpress.com Rachel

    That will be a shame if it does go to make way for something more bland; as you say it’s the most interesting piece of Liverpool ONE architecturally speaking (and far more appealing than whatever the Waterstone’s/Urban Outfitters structure is).

    However. In terms of pulling shoppers in, it’s always felt a bit behind, just a space to pass through on your way from Topshop or Cath Kidston to John Lewis. Not that there aren’t interesting or independent shops there, but that darkened corridor didn’t really have the ambience that led to lingering and exploring what was on offer. I hope they’re willing to rethink ways to make the current space more enticing before scrapping it.

  • http://Www.beachskulls.tumblr.com Ryan Jackson

    I swear if they get rid of that (one of the only interesting and characteristic pieces of architecture in the development) I will start a riot.

  • James

    Hmm, it is ‘different’, but to me it feels dark. I rarely go through there, and when I do the shops feel uninviting somehow.

    It is a shopping area so the barometer has to be “are people shopping there?”, and if they’re not and it’s left to own devices you can be left with something tatty and decaying.

    Better that the company is prepared to monitor success and step in to make changes to improve I say; there are plenty of town centres in the country where this doesn’t happen.

  • N1ck0
  • http://www.made-here.co.uk kate

    firstly – I’d like to re-iterate that Liverpool ONE have been such a great company and group of individuals to work with whilst we have been running the Made-Here Pop-Up Shop, and that we only ever had a temporary lease there so the fact that we are closing on 2nd July is no great shock to us. We are really grateful for the time we have had to test out our business plan and provide an income for 33 artists and practitioners. We would hope to be able to work with Liverpool ONE again in the future as I believe that our shop is right for their development, as our customers and turnover have demonstrated – we just need to be able to find a unit of the right size so that it is affordable.

    I am however, disappointed on two counts – mainly, as a citizen of Liverpool that this iconic building is being replaced with something bland that lacks as Dave really eloquently says the “style, humour and eye-popping chutzpah” of the existing.

    Secondly, and in response to James and Rachel I would like to point out that Made-Here’s sales per ft2 are surpassing everyone’s expectations and proving that these units work – lunchtimes, evenings and weekends, the alley is full of people standing looking at our windows and discussing what’s on sale before coming in and buying locally made items from an independent retailer. So I would agree with James that it would be great to see the landlord “monitor success” rather than base decisions on the retail scenario of a couple of years ago. Keys Court has one of the highest footfalls of the whole development, and yes, initially we realised it was people just cutting through, but we have succeeded in making them stop by animating the space with attractive window displays and selling things that the public want.

    Finally James I would like to invite you into Made-Here before 2nd July 🙂

  • Roy McCarthy

    The downturn in the economy has meant it’s more difficult for niche shops to survive, especially in poorer cities like Liverpool. So the handbag shops, and the milkshake shack were always going to be first against the wall in Keys Court. But I agree with the thrust of this argument. Liverpool’s creative sector is alive, just look at all the vintage fairs and pop up shops and art fairs. Grosvenor is doing very well out of Liverpool ONE, this corner must represent less than 5% of its footfall. It would be an amazing gesture for them to give it to a co-operative who could in turn rotate the very best Liverpool suppliers and makers in this space. SevenStreets could even have a stall. Although I don’t know what you’d sell. But I’d buy it!

  • http://thenorthernist.wordpress.com Rachel

    Kate, I’m very glad to hear your pop-up shop’s been a success. I hope Grosvenor recognises that interesting independent shops can draw customers and make that a cornerstone of future plans for Keys Court.

  • Terry McKenna

    Mushtaq Saleri at Studio Three are the small local practice that were responsible for the delightful ‘folded card’ pavilion at the top of Chavasse Park.

  • Archichap

    Before I comment on the above article, I think it is important to admit being a big fan of FAT’s work and I have very fond memories of attending a lecture given by Shaun Griffiths about this very building back in 2007 at Milk and Sugar. Firstly I am somewhat surprised by the comments above as the lecture Shaun gave was attended by only 6 people, I therefore presumed at the time that FAT didn’t have many fans in the city (strange given that Shaun is a native?)

    Despite my predisposed admiration for their work I firmly believe that the building in question is a poor example of what they can and have achieved elsewhere for a multitude of reasons. Furthermore to argue that building has or can be commercially successful is at best naive at worst dogmatic, anyone who has spent time in the city since the opening of Liverpool One can’t deny that the majority of the building has sat empty more often than not.

    Of course all architecture is subjective but the commercial reality is that Liverpool One needs to keep attracting new retailers into the development in order for the city to thrive, one could argue that the building adds a certain piquancy to the street scene but ultimately it has failed in its primary function;

    possibly a great piece of architectural art, but a great building I think not…..

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  • Electrolux guy

    Archichap is surely missing the point if he feels the public have to attend a lecture to appreciate an architect’s building.. how uneducated us rabble must be..!

    I would agree that Grosvenor’s willingness to review retail success is healthy for the city. The Keys Court passage is by its very nature a thoroughfare – challenged by one side merely forming the side entrance to Top Shop – this route clearly offers resistance to giving the public cause to dwell and shop. It’s disappointing that FAT weren’t offered the opportunity to work with their client and respond to concerns of the effectiveness of the pavilion and respond without demolition. Instead, we are faced with a replacement that lacks context and could have dropped out of an ‘instant shop unit’ catalogue. Its bland response and lack of cafe potential will surely see punters pass by ever more quickly without pause?  Ignore that last point, I’ve never attended a Studio 3 lecture… what was I thinking…?

  • Archichap

    Electrolux Guy, I wasn’t aware that I said you had to attend a lecture to appreciate a buildings design? However it certainly does give a far greater insight into the architects reasoning. I guess we can all only hope that Studio Three are given the opportunity to explain their design rather than being dismissed purely because of people’s stylistic taste

  • Oh Danny Boy!!

    Ahhhh, bless ’em. The naivety of those that don’t really get it and live in
    cloud cuckoo land. I’m sure some people would rather see 3 empty units than
    2 well designed units with quality tenants. The fact that Liverpool ONE are
    able to encourage temporary pop up shops is because unlike the rest of retail Liverpool – they know what they’re doing. The brief responds to a changing world and a changing retail scene – if it doesn’t work: fix it.

    Fashion comes and goes, Architecture can be subjective and Taste isn’t always automatic just because you have a London postcode. There are empty shops across Liverpool…is that what people would like to project as the image of our city…oh and if you look closely, there are some major cracks in the structure too…shame the award winning architects couldn’t detail!

    Let’s let Liverpool ONE get on with what they do best and perhaps focus on the multitude of other landlords that couldn’t care less what they did in our city.

  • DIRK

    My point is informed by a completely different view on the existing pavilion. For me the building demonstrates a casual, almost arrogant, disregard for context – in favour of an imposition of cut-and-paste architectural motifs – giving a misleading impression of uniqueness. The truth is, as anyone who is familiar with FAT’s other work will know, the only thing unique about this design is that this time it’s been dropped in Liverpool.

    Liverpool ONE should not be criticised for addressing the fact that the spaces created are not working on a retail level – clearly that was the major remit of the original brief. Instead, they should be applauded for not being overly precious about a skin-deep building – and for looking to commission a subtler, less self-conscious alternative which actually works.

  • Dee

    I often wonder how well the the small shops are doing as they always seem to be almost empty. We worry they’ll close down. I just wish that Liverpool had free Parking like the Trafford centre. Free parking would attract many more shoppers from near and far. I live in Liverpool but worked in North and West Yorkshire. I heard many people saying they loved Liverpool One but they thought there would be free parking like the Trafford centre.