So, how was it for you? It’s a question we’ve sprinkled across the city, asking those who’ve helped shaped the past 12 months. Next up, R2 Architecture’s Richard Eastwood: the man behind the blueprints of many of our city’s favourite bars and restaurants – notably, this year, the designer responsible for the Ropewalk’s excellent Brink.
1) The city’s been packed with rather brilliant events and goings on
this year. What were your personal highlights?
There were a couple of performance highlights. The gigs at the cathedrals offered great music in unexpected venues. Sound City in Lutyens Crypt was an exciting night. Laura Marling at the Anglican was also memorable. I think a lot of folk musucians only take it up because their mum or dad are into it. Consequently a lot of folk music I find technically proficient but emotionally distant as they sound like they are still singing to their mum and dad rather than really engaging with the emotion of what they are singing. Laura Marling seemed to work perfectly in the Anglican with the scale of the space making the band feel like a fireplace within its vast interior and this juxtaposed with her slightly distant persona.
On a personal level. We had an ‘End of the Road for the Monarchy’ street party on the day of the royal wedding. Well we do live at the end of the road. We were worried no one would turn up. At 3 o’clock we opened the front door with trepidation to start setting things up. To our surprise lots of the lovely neighbours were already outside with cakes and goodies in hand. It was a fantastic day that tapped into an obvious sense of community that exists on the street.
2) And how about professional highlights? Was there anything you were particularly pleased with?
Professionally for R2 Architecture the highlight has to be working on The Brink on Parr Street. It is a ‘dry bar’ which is a first for the city. I spent an observation day with them on Rodney Street. It was an incredibly moving experience to see people in the midst of addiction having to face up to, and articulate their experiences.
Yes some were hard looking guys that you would avoid on the street but to see them, for possibly the first time in their lives, having to just talk was an eye opener. Then on the other side were people who could have been your aunty or younger sister.
It bought home the fact that many people are not far from ending up in such treatments. This was a great thing to participate in. We tried to bring the voice and character of these people into the venue. It isn’t just about ‘meaningful’ therapy and there is a lot of humour and joy in the experience of recovery. This was one of the things we wanted to get across in the venue. It is a venue for everyone and has to be successful in its own terms. The recovery aspect is just another layer within the venue for those who want to discover it.
3) Was there anything that disappointed you, or you think the city could have done without this year?
Sometimes it’s the stupid decisions that reveal a greater idiocy. The new museum has great content and is well worth a visit. Then you think about the cafe. Would you put it on the sunny side of the building facing the river or on the shady side facing Mann Island? It is thoughtlessness like this that enrages me and makes me a bore. Don’t even get me started on the mastic joint up the staircase. It sometimes seems that the motto for the city is ‘a good idea badly delivered.’ This building captures this. You have exhibitions that can really move you and make you proud then you bump into the thoughtlessness that exasperates.
On a bigger scale, but not an unrelated one, my disappointment is the same every year. Where is the master plan? Liverpool is a fantastic city and needs to stand up for itself. It needs to discover a bit more arrogance. If people want to build in this city it should be seen as a privilege. The worry is that with these harder times we revert to type and become so thankful for any investment we allow anything no matter how mediocre to be built.
Would it really hurt to insist Peel use a world class architect to design a master plan and prove the sustainability and quality of the scheme in return say for faster track planning approval. The Garden Festival Site scheme that was proposed is a national embarrassment. The Mersey is one of the most famous rivers in the world. Here is one of the last chances to really address the river and add life to a length of the promenade. What do they do ? Some cul-de-sacs with mediocre low rise blocks.
4) If you had to recommend one thing – a place, event, exhibition, etc – for our readers to check out before the end of the year, what would it be?
Well before the end of the year I would say go out and treat the city like you were a tourist. Despite everything I said get to the new museum. If you’re bored in that ‘dead zone’ between christmas and new year. Just try and look with a fresh eye.
Driving along the Strand at night have a look at the magnificent city you live in. Go for a walk in Crosby or pop over to West Kirby. Also one of the best things about Liverpool is how easy it is to escape. Go for a hike in the Lakes or North Wales. Plan something for the year ahead so there is something to look forward to. It is a weird time of year so just take a bit some stock. If none of this is appealing a bacon buttie and a coffee at Bold Street Coffee and that will get you going.
5) 2012’s looming. Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to next year in the city? What do you have coming up?
Over a decade ago when I first returned to the city looking for work we were in a similar state jobs wise as we are now. But from these times emerged lots of creative companies. These were people who stayed in Liverpool rather than run off to London. They had a real attitude that really changed the city creatively. I can see now that there are people saying ‘lets have a go,’ What is exciting is there is a greater willingness to collaborate. This is leading to the germination of exciting projects and attitudes. These may not reach fruition for a few years. From these harder times lots of interesting things will happen.
People, for better or worse, have a little more time to investigate what is important. During the good times people were focussed on just getting things done and protecting what was theirs. Now people have time to ‘have ideas’ and explore. They may realise they have a good idea but understand they cannot deliver it by themselves and go out and enter into dialogue with other parties. Liverpool is an incredibly creative place and we should be so thankful for this. So more dialogue and more ideas are probably the most exciting things to look forward to in 2012.