Posts Tagged ‘Architectural Design’

Museum of Liverpool

Museum of Liverpool

Museum of Liverpool

Opened in 2011, the Museum of Liverpool occupies a prominent position at Pier Head, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The waterfront development represents continued regeneration work since the European Capital of Culture celebrations were held in 2008.

Danish 3XN Architects conceived the design from circulation routes across the docks, which then became sculpted platforms and  cantilevers. The site is adjacent to Liverpool’s Three Graces, Edwardian commercial buildings linked to the city’s maritime heyday, and is bordered by a connection to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Two large picture windows (28 x 8m) allow views in opposing directions; towards the Three Graces in the North, and Albert Dock to the South. At night, they appear as beacons, gazing out over Merseyside. Jura Stone is employed to clad the 2100 tonne steel skeleton. Landscaping attempts to create public spaces around the building periphery. Construction was directed by AEW Architects, Manchester. When the development opened, it was the newest purpose-built museum in the UK for over 100 years. The building provides a larger visitor capacity than the Museum of Liverpool Life, closed in 2006, and aims to attract 750000 visitors per annum.

Pier Head Regeneration

Pier Head Regeneration

Internally, exhibitions chart Liverpuddlian culture, sporting achievements and industrial heritage. Famous writers, performers, musicians, and artists feature in ‘Wonderous Place’, along with the development of Liverpool FC and Everton FC. Recognising Liverpool’s history as a port, a gallery covers trade, imports & exports and the Liverpool to Manchester railway. As an architecture student, it was also interesting to see a 1:48 scale model of Lutyen’s plans for Liverpool Cathedral. Completed in 1932, it took 12 craftsmen one year to complete just the exterior. The exhibitions have been criticised by some for providing a popularised narrative, offering few challenging topics. However, I would argue that the museum successfully uses modern technology to engage visitors, and the large interconnected gallery spaces allow a non-linear investigation of collections. Surprisingly though, a large proportion of the building footprint is taken up by circulation. A spiral ramp connects all floors. A spiral is also printed on the foyer floor, which is allegedly a reference to local prehistoric carvings.

The Museum of Liverpool is an iconic new addition to the city skyline, contributing to the eventual regeneration of Pier Head.


Superlambanana, sculptures created by artist Taro Chiezo to mark the Capital of Culture celebrations

Photographs taken 2011.


Salford Quays

Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North, Daniel Libeskind

Salford Quays forms one of the largest urban renewal projects in the Britain. The site is home to Imperial War Museum North, the Lowry Centre, and MediaCity.

The Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, covering 35.5 miles and allowing vessels to reach the city outskirts. The canal was a terrific engineering achievement, enabling 12500 tonne vessels  miles passage from  the Mersey Estuary. At the advent of containerisation, industrial activity declined steeply, with the docks closing in 1982. Unlike Liverpool, the Manchester Docks lacked buildings of architectural merit or potential for conversion. Salford Council purchased 90 Hectares of dockyard, with a development plan for the area released in 1985.

Salford Quays

The Lowry Centre, Salford Quays

The Lowry Centre, a landmark arts and theatre venue, opened in 2000. Designed by James Stirling and Michael Wilford, the complex has over-tones of a liner, reflects the surrounding landscape and waterways. The building occupies the area of five football pitches, has several auditoriums and a gallery promoting the artist LS Lowry. Imperial War Museum North (Daniel Libeskind, 2002) represents a world shattered by war. The resulting shards, earth, air and water, house a large open exhibition space, cafe and 29 m high viewing platform. Collections chart military history from the First World War to the present day, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The Big Picture Show is a film projected throughout the gallery at regular intervals, providing a different perspective on the personal impact of war.


MediaCity, Salford Quays

MediaCity UK is the result of an ambition to make Salford a centre of excellence for the creative industries and digital media. The principle occupant is BBC North, which attempts to readdress the southern bias of program production. The new centre opened in 2011 and will create 2300 jobs. BBC Sport, BBC Breakfast, Children’s content, Radio 5 Live, BBC Learning and Future media are all departments that have moved to the three buildings leased by Peel Media. Programmes such as Match of the Day, Blue Peter and Dragon’s den are now made at BBC North. The project cost under £200 million, and includes outdoor event’s space for 5000 people.

Mark Radcliffe and Stewart Maconie are two of the new tenants at MediaCity. The much-loved broadcasting duo moved to digital radio station 6Music in 2011, and began presenting the afternoon show. We are regular listeners in the University of Edinburgh architecture workshop!


Robert at MediaCity UK

Arnside Viaduct and Seafood Kitchen

Arnside Viaduct, 1856 (restored 2011)

Happy New Year; all the best for 2012. It seems like quite a while since I’ve written anything online. Hopefully the New Year will provide more time for me to write architectural insights.

My course in MA (Hons) Architectural Design includes the opportunity for a placement period. As such, I am currently looking for work experience at an architecture firm or similar in a period from January-December 2012. Anyone interested can read my CV and view portfolio material at Stay posted for a new website, on its way very shortly.

Arnside Viaduct, built in 1856, has recently undergone a £11.1 million deck refurbishment. The crossing is part of the Cumbria West Coast Line, linking Carnforth, Barrow and Carlisle. Over time, the structure had become so weak that trains were limited to 30 mph when crossing. In the final four months, this was reduced to 20 mph. In addition, the structure had become too weak to accommodate the lifting cranes required for dismantling. May Gurney, building contractors, were required to replace 102 deck units (two for each of the 51 spans) in a 16 week time period. By installing two new maintenance walkways, independent from the existing bridge deck, they could use a gantry frame to replace the panels. This technique, first trialled at the nearby Leven Viaduct in 2006, purportedly cut construction time by a half. Hopefully, Network Rail will now increase the viaduct speed limit to 60 mph. Certainly, the renewal works have ensured the future of this 150 year old structure.

Over the Christmas break, I compiled a portfolio of third year work. The ‘Explorations’ project seeked to design a sustainable prawn fishing community on the island of Kerrera, Scotland. Analysing the creel fishing process and undertaking a site visit established themes of wave turbulence, micro-climate and weather. The Seafood Kitchen provides fine dining, culinary education and guest accommodation to gastro-tourists wanting to learn more about the prawn fishing industry. My final design is a restaurant that incorporates thermal strategies based on the heat processes involved in seafood preparation.

A Place of My Own

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

‘A Place of My Own’ is the result of two years’ academic study at the University of Edinburgh. The short book displays work produced in architectural design, technology and history, with examples of projects and concise essays. I found it rewarding to review work from the start of my course and notice the improvement in standard.

My design projects include a renga platform, artisan dwelling, museum of product design, and a dance centre. Essays cover fascist architecture, the Ancien Regime and the Papacy. Finally, technology examines sustainability and building tectonics, with case studies on Waterloo International Terminal and 14a Garway Road, Bayswater.

Ponte di Calatrava, Venice

Ponte di Calatrava, Venice

Ponte della Constituzione, better known as Ponte di Calatrava, opened in 2008. The bridge spans across the Grand Canal at its most northerly point, linking Santa Lucia railway station with the car, bus and ferry terminal at Piazzale Roma. From its inception, the project has polarised opinion, with proponents describing the structure both a ‘carpet of light’ and a ‘lobster’ respectively.

Santiago Calatrava’s design investigates rhythm and transparency. The 94 m single span bridge is achieved using a futuristic structure of glass and steel, which rises from 3.45 m to 9.38 m at the centre.  Stairs are made from toughened glass and istria stone. Each ascending tread becomes progressively wider, forming a curve perpendicular to the span direction. Bronze handrails nimbly vault the Grand Canal, whilst glass panels enclose the bridge deck without obstructing views. At night, illumination in the handrail and beneath the decking, turn the structure into a ribbon of light.

View South along the Grand Canal

Commissioned in 1999, the Ponte di Calatrava is the newest bridge in the city to be constructed in more than 70 years. Venetians first spanned the Grand Canal at Rialto in the 16th century. The Scalzi and Accademia bridges followed later, in the 1930s. Calatrava, a Spanish architect, is well known for projects that fuse Architecture and Engineering, including the City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, and the Tenerife Concert Hall. Although Calatrava has designed over forty bridges worldwide, he believes this his ‘most beautiful’, declaring it ‘an act of love to Venice and of love to Italian civilisation in general’. Aside from linking two important districts, the bridge forms a symbolic gateway to Venice, where visitors leave behind road traffic and enter the domain of vaporetti, motor boats and the gondola. The vista South, along the Grand Canal is particularly key to this transition. The architect believes Venetian bridges ‘serve as landmarks, points of definition in an urban fabric that is utterly unique’. Alongside its function, the bridge has acted as a catalyst, regenerating  the canal side. For example, the abutments provide seating and allow access to the new vaporetto landing stages.

Bridge abutment

Although hailed as ‘the  most important architectural achievement in recent decades’, the Ponte di Calatrava has come under much criticism. The project was completed late and came in four times over budget. Construction had to be halted for two years, due to uncertainty about stability of the canal banks. A further criticism was the lack of disabled access. During the design process, it was always assumed wheelchairs would use the existing vaporetto connection to cross the canal. (Retrofitted lifts have now been installed). The bridge was finally unveiled in September 2008.

As a piece of design, the Ponte di Calatrava both contrasts with and complements its historic context, successfully functioning as the gateway to Venice.

Big Bambu, Mike + Doug Starn

Big Bambu, Venice Biennale

Recently on view at the 54th Venice Biennale, Big Bambu is a remarkable experiment in art and structure. Located next to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the 50 feet hollow bamboo tower supported a pathway to a 20 feet wide rooftop lounge. The Stairns employed a team of 11 rock climbers to continually build and support the evolving structure, throughout the exhibition period of May 29th to June 15th. Mike Stairn comments “It is a sculpture – but not a static sculpture…growth and change remain inevitable. Furthermore, the sculpture is a physical construct that embodies the philosophy of inter-dependence within natural systems. Doug Stairns adds, “Everything depends upon one another and the loads are distributed throughout…There is not too much weight applied to any one thing.” A previous exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2010), proved popular, being rated the 4th highest attended contemporary art exhibition in the world. Hopefully the success of Big Bambu will inspire similar projects.

Aerial Pathway

Getting Hitched: simple roped connections

Dance Centre, Barcelona

Firstly, here’s a little self promotion! My final project in second year involved designing a comunity dance centre within a city square, located in the Barcelona contemporary arts district. The project references surrounding sites, splitting the square into an active side, used for outdoor performance, and a resting square facing a retirement home.

Composed from a simple language of studio volumes, roof canopy and frame, the design places emphasis on permitting/restricting movement through building facades. Interior and exterior social space interpenetrate, forming a boundary condition that protects and shades observers. In the studios, relation to the external environment is through the roof, creating a volume for dancing. High quality material finish ensures these are uplifting spaces.