At a recent networking event I didn’t factor in having a direct conversation with Mayor Joe Anderson about Visions for Liverpool and further obtaining support to develop an idea put to him during our conversation.

My question to the Mayor was, as a city region with the lobbying for HS3 lines to the Liverpool Super Port, how are we linking the overall strategic visionary plans that will allow the Architectural Schools to contribute to a developing brief, that also showcase the visions for Liverpool and the wider region? Boston and New York run international design competitions to address similar waterfront and coastal issues, and myself having entered recent competitions collaborating with ARUP Engineers, it provides a valuable discourse for the cities as to how they see the future of their cities developing.

My architectural education came from growing up in the city and later attending the John Moores School of Architecture. Studies focussed then on the realisable strategy for the overall shape of the river edge and its adjacent hinterland, following the strategic urban studies, focus would then be on integral micro components that gave birth to a revitalised urban landscape. The far reaching strategies distort the familiar landscape as they look to view the urban fabric through a new lens that works with existing commerce and industries.

An urban study undertaken by John Moores University in the late 1990’s was the City Works 1 which focussed on a new high speed rail transport infrastructure and the opportunities that integrating this line into the texture of the city raises. This initiative was to explore long term strategies for Liverpool which were already visible in Rotterdam and other European cities. Fifteen projects within the overall urban study would become pivotal in a strategy addressing medium to long term regeneration and population growth, with an eco-city at Formby Point to assist coast line erosion, a Mersey barrage proposal and an expanding port proposal amongst others. The proposals all distort the familiar image we have of the existing urban landscape but grounded in the real economic aspirations of the city, which not unlike a brief which could develop which aligns with the Mayor’s lobbying for infrastructural change.

This form giving or visionary plans from Aigburth to Seaforth could also be vital in providing the new RIBA headquarters in Mann Island with joined up visionary thinking coming from the schools of Architecture, Art and Design as well as local Architectural practice with links back to community involvement through schools.
Liverpool has a pioneering history directly linked with the waterfront and was written about in the Architectural Review January 2008 when the focus was on Capital of Culture year, the extract highlights the important impact of the previous Overhead railway. Liverpool decided to adopt from New York the solution of an elevated railway to run along the Dock Road but outdoing New York’s ‘EL’ by making it the world’s first electrified ‘Overhead Railway,’ carrying millions until it closure in closure in 1956,‘we can say, then, that the era of the Overhead was when Liverpool attained a comprehensible form as, in effect, a linear city running parallel to the river, from the airport of Speke to the Formby Dunes.’ The route along the working docks allowed the passenger to view the changing landscape of the docks as cargo arrived and departed, this ebb and flow has always been the changing skyline and also as the current liners park with a stature equal almost to the monumental buildings on the waterfront, this gives the waterfront its essential changing form.

Creating a vision for a future Liverpool will be how we distort the familiar.Inthe recent collaboration with ARUP Engineers the brief for New York was to reimagine the waterways that surrounded the Islands and the boroughs of New York. The linking of the five boroughs by a series of transit hubs would bring a new vision for the region and bring into use large amounts of inaccessible waterfront addressed by water orientated educational, cultural and commercial activities and demonstrations of clean technology and renewable energy.

Just as New York and Boston reimagine their city regions and coast lines, Liverpool needs to reimagine its own, and how it emerges and connects with the hinterland. So to develop a structure around Visions for Liverpool I will beexploring a strategy that can unite the rich capabilities of design, commerce and community. A recent meeting at Liverpool Vision in the city was valuable in addressing the early steps of taking the conversations further. The waterfront has always provided the form for the city throughout its history and with an architecture centre soon to be opened by the RIBA, the iconic waterfront would be the right platform to promote the joined up visionary plans for the future of Liverpool and distort our familiar views to let us see anew.