So the moment has arrived. Mann Island is – at least in Building Design’s eyes – a 24 carat blot on the landscape. It’s up against some stiff competition though, by the look of the other shortlisted horrors.

So we’re revisiting this feature…Hope you enjoy our slideshow at the end.

Imagine this. You were the custodian of a city viewpoint that adorned a thousand calendars, had snappers from Toronto to Tokyo ooh-ing and ah-ing behind their Fuji Finepix, and sharing their holiday photos with friends across the globe. That, through a thousand Flikr updates, our city went viral.

Imagine that UNESCO had given said cluster of civic pride a coveted World Heritage status – ranking it alongside the Alhambra in Spain, The Statue of Liberty, the Medina of Marrakesh…

And then try to figure out what thought process (if any) it would need to arrive at the decision to black it out.

Not only that, but to obscure this with a graceless, leaden hulk that wouldn’t get past first base on a RIBA Correspondence Course.

There is, among architects, a raging debate about context. Zaha Hadid says it’s bollocks – that buildings don’t have a duty to ‘blend in’ but to ‘respond’ to their immediate urban condition. We tend to agree. But even she wouldn’t be arrogant enough to block out the competition. But, then, she is a world class architect. Not a school boy who got lucky with a design competition.

Liverpool is a complex city. This is not a complex debate. Mann Island is not a complex building. It’s a jagged little pill. And we’re all going to have to swallow it. At least, until it the next one comes along.

Still, Steven Gerrard loves it. He’s snapped up two luxury apartments. Good to know that, for some, that view will remain – if only from their bedroom window.

Ironic, isn’t it, that even through the fires of Blitz, the ‘Geermans’ didn’t obliterate the Three Graces. It was our friendly fire what did for ’em.

EDIT: Today, Mann Island has been shortlisted for the 2012 Carbuncle Cup (it missed out last year because it wasn’t finished). The cup must know its way around the Pier Head only too well…the Pier Head terminal won in 2009 and the Museum of Liverpool was (unfairly, we think) nominated last year.

Judges described the Mann Island development, by Neptune, as ‘a scheme that completes the desecration of that city’s once great waterfront.’ We agree. Even though the new Open Eye gallery is lovely.

So, in response to the outrage, Sevenstreets postulates what damage this implanted cell would create, should other city councils be quite so myopic. Reminds us of that scene at the end of 2010, a Space Odyssey… and, we’re sure Merseytravel don’t want to be reminded of quite how ill-fated a move to Mann really is.

47 Responses to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

  1. Crab C Nesbitt

    What an absolute disgrace that building is. The greatest square mile of architecture in the UK looks as if some quasi-fucked up alien ship has landed in front of it. The view of the Three Graces, when sat outside the Pumphouse pub on a sunny day nursing a pint, was THE archetypal viewpoint in the city. And now its gone. A shambles and a abomination. Heads should fucking roll.

  2. David Swift

    Margi Clarke, bless her, dubbed them the Black Coffins. I think that is apt as it is certainly the death of the best view in Liverpool.
    If you want to know who passed the plans for Mann Island look no further than Lady Doreen Jones. As LibDem chair of the Planning Committee in 2006 she used her casting vote after a 4-4 split from the councillors. There were cries of SHAME from the public gallery as she approved this act of civic vandalism.

  3. Marcus

    The worst thing is – the image at the top of this piece (which is great, by the way – and kudos on the site) is only the official computer generated mockup of it. In real life it looks even worse.

  4. Spot on. The best thing we could do is bang a compulsory purchase order on them and knock them down.
    Maybe Steve G has bought the top top and might do us a favour and dismantle them???

  5. What you are looking at is the result of planners trying there upmost to dance around heritage-lead objections, UNESCO and various other “advisory” panels who give there point of view.

    A lot of time and effort on the part of the architect went into this design to ensure that it met the brief as well as the demands of the local authorities.

    All of the buildings on the waterfont (including the ones we obsess about as icons) have resulted in blocking a view, filling in a dock etc etc.

    These buildings represent the city today. Bold, contrasting, different, stick out, stand in the way and shout “F**k off” to everyone who objects.

    Isnt this what Liverpool is actually famous for?

  6. David Lloyd

    Michael, that sounds like you’re saying ‘this is a building compromised by committee’ – I was 100% behind The Cloud. That did shout ‘fuck off’ but this one, it doesn’t shout anything particularly worth hearing, does it? If you’re going to stick your head above the parapet, you need to wear a fancy hat.

  7. I think it does say something. The design has a number of interesting features.

    Its materiality is one which allows the past to reflect across the black panelling and the arrangement is again following this magic number we seem to have in Liverpool for clusters – 3

    3 graces, the three 60’s office blocks that cluster around old hall st, and now these three building types.

    I do appreciated a view has been lost but this is a typical reaction, not necessarily the wrong reaction and it to say as such shouldnt be taken as a challenge.

    The architecture is of its day. As were the three graces and other design we have seen across the city over the last 100 years that we have come to either love or hate (or somewhere in between)

    Again, if Liverpool had ever given any time to complaints of lost views and interupted vista’s we would not have the Anglican Cathedral (blocking the views to Wales for the georgian terraces)

    We would have cancelled St johns tower due to its proximity to St georges hall.

    We would have also cancelled the Royal Liver building for fear of it blocking the views of the Goree pizzas and requiring filling in a dock.

    We need to embrace new architecture. Opposing constantly has only lead to missed opportunities and more recently, the downsizing of Liverpool one – again to appease some misguided romanticised notion of city that no longer exists.

  8. PS, i liked the cloud too, although after seeing what happens to Will Alsops architecture on a visit to one of his mesh clad buildings in London, I dont think it would have looked pretty after 12 months – more a tangled mess of pigeon feathers rust.

  9. Sir Giles Gilbert Snot

    God, this website’s so cynical! I thought I was a cynic but I’m obviously just a lightweight.

    Tell me this – can you still walk comfortably around our beloved three graces and view them? Yes. If you stand with your back to the river and look at them front-on is the view obscured? No. Is it necessary to see the three graces from London Road? No!

    I agree that anything being built in Liverpool’s most prominent site needs to be good. I love the new Museum of Liverpool Life. I can’t say I ‘love’ the new black-clad buildings but I do think they are original and modern.

    I’m not aware of any classic buildings that were demolished to make way for the new ones. Any great modern city should blend beautiful old buildings with newer architecture that shows we’ve still got our eye on the ball. The fact that we’re having this debate proves that the new buildings are anything but bland! Liverpool is not a bland, beige city. It’s a city of character, colour and personality.

  10. But that’s the problem, Sir Snot, the new buildings *are* bland. And they’re anything but modern. They’re ten years out of date before they’re even completed. Give us real, exciting and original new structures worthy of the spot (and whatever you say, a waterfront location demands an iconic building, whether it’s Liverpool, Sydney or Shanghai) and you’ll get no complaints from us. Cynical? We try not to be. Opinionated? That’s as much a part of our DNA as it is with anyone in this city. As it should be.

  11. Sir Giles Gilbert Snot

    If you’re not cynical then where are the positive comments in your above arcticle? You may not like the new buildings but tell me – if they’re unoriginal and bland – please cite what OTHER building they look like?

    It’s a fine balance between iconic and vulgar. Personally, I thought the ‘Cloud’ design by Alsop was a monstrosity. There’s too much vulgarity in our city. Go out on a Saturday night in our great city and tell me do the girls dress with style? NO WAY MATE. They look like transvestites! Too much fake tan. Too much make-up. 6” platform shoes. Bright pink mini dresses. Am I being cynical or am I stating the embarrassing truth?

    Oh God, maybe that’s another debate for you….

  12. It shares DNA with these:,1020,956779,00.jpg

    and it’s not as inspired as this

  13. Sir Giles Gilbert Snot

    You’re right. I’d agree that the new Lpool building’s quite similar to Libeskind’s building. I’ve never heard of Libeskind’s building before and neither has any non-anorak in Liverpool. It’s also 6000 miles away!

    Have you ever seen the interior of Leeds town hall? It’s an absolute ringer for St George’s Hall. I don’t think that’s damaged either building’s reputation. You don’t design an ‘iconic’ building. It either becomes one or it doesn’t.

    I’m a new convert to this site and I think it’s great. I’d just prefer it if it was a bit more positive. It’s important to highlight things that are wrong but we’ve also got a lot to celebrate in our city don’t you think?

    The whiny article about the reaturant dress code was needless. The place sounds so awful I don’t know why you’d want to go there anyway. You may not like dress codes but some of us DO. Remember dress down Fridays? Remember that workers actually found it HELPFUL to have a dress code and went back to how they were dressed before. If I go the bank I don’t want to be served by someone in a football shirt (it actually happened one Friday).

    If you and your friends go to, say, the Panoramic for dinner on your mum’s 60th birthday all dressed up for the special occasion do you want some people in trackies and baseball caps on the next table? It kind of kills the moment for me I have to say. You feel overdressed and they probably feel underdressed.

    Equally, I love those great neighbourhood places like The Tavern or down Lark Lane where you don’t need to make an effort. If you stand on the Kop you don’t wear a f**king suit right? It’s all about dressing the right way for the right occasion.

    Very few people are able to do it these days.

  14. Sir Giles Gilbert Snot

    Apologies. There were several references to dress codes in the article which is what I picked up on. Sorry for your mate, though. The situation simply required a manager with common sense.

  15. Liverpoolpreservationtrust, you really are a boring troll.

    There’s extremes to everything, you’re a little left or right of centre and everything is okay, you hit either end of the horseshoe and you’re just another blinkered idiot.

    You’re just as bad as those who want to knock down everything and turn the space into ugly new-builds. I’m admittedly not a fan of Mann Island (I am of the new museum though) but hell you hate everything!

  16. TheWilk

    Funny you should say they wouldn’t pass a RIBA course as the buildings (called Longitude and Latitude, btw) are used as a starting point for the new RIBA Gateway to Liverpool architecture walks, and the glass corridor (dubbed the Equator – see what they did there?) is being used for a RIBA photography exhibition right this momentt.

    There’ll soon be a trip boat departing from the plaza outside Longitude & Latitude that will take passengers to the old, majestic yet outrageously derelict Stanley Dock and back. I think the contrasts will be fascinating.

  17. Make that three. In fact make that loads of people in the city who like Mann island. The view was pretty good before but I like its dynamism now. And me, and many others like me are sick of cranks like Wayne O’loon determined to drag our city back into the dark ages. Since when has margy Clarke been an arbiter of taste? The trouble is people who like these buildings are usually too busy getting on with there lives to post in things like this, so bitter old weirdos like Wayne dominant the debate. They are here. They are modern Liverpool, not crumbling empire Liverpool and I think we should embrace them. The new open eye gallery will be in there also. How great will that be? Maybe we could have had a better building, but I think the cranks would have dragged it down even quicker. Hopefully now this is the start of a dramatic new waterfront stretching to the northern docks.


    Personally, I don’t have any complaints about them, other than I wish they’d be finished a bit sooner.

    I think they’re an excellent contrast to the 3 Graces; it’s all a part of modernising the waterfront and I think people need to let go of the whole ‘classic Liverpool waterfront’ view, and accept that we can have other buildings. (I think Liverpool Waters is an amazing idea also, but that’s for another debate)

  19. oddjones

    What I don’t get is how it managed to get built without much complaint, given the uproar surrounding the Cloud and Museum of Liverpool – both of which are designs of real architectural merit, which don’t/wouldn’t have block(ed) the view of the three graces – The black box somehow seems to have “slipped in under the radar” and done everything that the naysayers said that the other two designs would do.

  20. Agree. It was the last planning approval given by Doreen Jones. She said at the time : “This is a young architect and I think young architects should be given a chance”, before approving the development. Yeah, sure they should. Just not on a world stage. Maybe give them a chance somewhere less prominent first. Shameful.

  21. Liverpool preservation trust, HELLO Wyane is that you all on your lonesome my god man how do become a trust all by yourself. we are a growing dynamic city not an antiques shop get it.

  22. What a stupid article that is… To start with you cannot compare the three graces to the Taj or any of the other wonders of the world, i cant see Sky sending Karl Pilkington down to come and see this wonder…

    To the bloke who’s view is spoiled from the pub when he is looking out maybe he should be looking at the wide screen tv or generally engaging in conversation with people, but he is probably by himself so the view would have been his only company.

    I need not say anything about Wayne and his one man ‘trust’.

    The ‘view’ only exists from one side the south side. The view was taken away from the North End of Liverpool years ago. I could not hear any complaining when buildings were built to mask the view then. The fact is the city needed to build something there lets be honest most of the time with the weather being the way it is it is windy, wet and generally inhospitable. After the debacle and fall out from the cloud this building won. It is a bit like marmite you either love it or hate it. I have read accounts at how people were not overly impressed with the liver building when that was first built but that has stood the test of time and beyond.

    This building is going no where. If you want to view the 3 graces go and see them (not in pub).

  23. Mr Colquourn most of your followers probably descended from those who condemned the Royal Liver bldg when it started to go up, I say again, Would you like to show me your idea of a structure, building, or any other site you would like to preserve, I would personally take you to the northern side of the Pier Head, A person by the name of Rory Moore who writes in the Observer, He complained that he doesn’t like the new Museum of Life, he states there is no imformation about slavery, but I do not think he has ever been to Liverpool, as the Maritime slave site has been shown for last couple of years, your obection sounds like we still have luddites. Liverpool has to move on, Manchester certainly has. I would like to hear your take on what I have said. Jack Stamper

  24. “A mass of grey granite to the cornice, it rose to the sky in two quite unnecessary towers, which can symbolise nothing but the power of advertisement.”
    Charles Reilly on the Liver Building when new.

    “The works for strength and durability are unsurpassable, but it is to be regretted that no attention whatsoever has been paid to beauty as well as to strength. The enormous pile of warehouses which looms so large upon the river………is simply a hideous pile of naked brickwork”.
    J.A. Picton on the Albert Dock when new.

    Beware the verdicts of sniffy aesthetes, the kind of which organise the likes of the Carbuncle cup.

  25. I hear what you’re saying Kenn, and I agree. There is something sniffy about awards like this. But I guess my point is less about the award, and more about the buildings in and of themselves. I love new stuff (I even like One Park West) but these rankle me, always have!

  26. […] “Having shortlisted from forty entries, over the coming weeks the RIBA judging panel will be visiting a range of high quality buildings right across the North West region,” says RIBA’s Marc Heuston. They range from the excellent (hurrah!) Constellations Bar – well done team, to a Waitress supermarket in Chester. Worryingly, they also find room for Carbuncle Cup-winning Mann Island. […]

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