Liverpool One

 

Phrases that you never thought you’d hear an Architect say (No. 276 in a series);

The Trafford Centre is actually quite nice”.

Yes, Liverpool One is that bad – a soulless grey amalgamation in the heart of a fine northern city, a travesty of fake deconstructionist architecture, an assault on the human scale – quite simply in my opinion the worst urban space in the country at the moment. Only professional courtesy is preventing me from naming names.

It really is that awful – in half an hour it created a sense of depression in me that took hours to shake afterwards.

The biggest problem is that it’s far to sterile an environment, the only hint at life are the shop frontages, but unfortunately unlike every other streetscape in the country they don’t compete with each other to form a riot of colour and interest. Instead, they’re shut behind anonymous glass facades that reflect other anonymous glass facades on the other side of the street – or should I say motorway? The entire scale is wrong, almost as if someone is trying to shunt together two scales of model through a lack of understanding of how big people are. The pedestrian only streets are either too wide or so narrow that the high, flat buildings block out all light and create a sense of looming terror. Elsewhere this lack of humanity is most apparent in an escalator from the roof garden that plunges down nearly five floors as a grey staircase snakes from left to right above you – it feels like one of the vertiginous escalators that you get on the deeper tube stations in London. However, instead of linking bustling, interesting streets with wonderful underground lairs they link one grey, flat space with another grey, flat space. There is no sense of excitement in moving from one space to another.

Half the buildings and offices stand empty, not the architects fault I understand and not surprising during a credit crunch, but from the outside there is no way for a company to make a mark of it’s personality on the area, almost as if individuality is not permitted. Both offices and shops are hermetically sealed glass boxes carved into looming cliff faces of flat, fake stone – it feels like one of those future cities in dystopian nightmares where everyone wears grey, is clean cut but don’t communicate with each other. Not a single space is warm or inviting. Everything is too sterile, too uniform – there is no colour palate beyond dull, light grey and dull, light brown (see, it even has me hating beige – it’s that bad!).

I’m not being a gronard about this, I’ve long been a fan of decent urban planning and modern architecture, but there has to be a sense of it being scaled for human use. This isn’t – to be honest I’m not sure who it’s scaled for? Maybe I’m being completely ignorant and it’s actually a subtle comment on an increasingly obese generation because the only people I could think would actually “fit” it correctly are about three times as wide as current humans, but still the same height and depth? I doubt it, but really, how hard is it to know how big a human is, or has it been designed by something else?

It has been a long time since a piece of architecture has depressed me so much – it really was a soul draining space. It has completely put me off Liverpool for the moment in that it has coloured my view that much. I need to go and visit the Catholic Cathedral and the older parts, all of which have character, a sense of place and a realisation of how big a person actually is and learn to like it as a city again, but at the moment I really don’t want to go anywhere near it.

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