Modern Architecture, city-scapes and ‘Monstrous Carbuncles’; A few thoughts on the architecture of Liverpool Dockside following my recent trip.
Liverpool’s dockside, or just Liverpool, is literally build upon great architecture; including…
- the beautifully formed Albert Docks,
- Cunard’s Liver Building,
- the traditional Georgian town houses,
- the very modern approach to church architecture with the Metropolitan Cathedral,
- The complex ironwork of Lime Street Station,
- the monumental Central Cathedral, and,
- the new modern architecture in the docks with the Museum of Liverpool and the RIBA building (North).
Love it or hate it we can all agree that modern architecture receives a mixed reception. Maybe it’s because it’s doesn’t come across as a single concept and is therefore harder to pigeonhole, or file away in a single box. We look at 1960s tower blocks and they all look the same. Victorian and Georgian streets are easy to identify. As are Tudor buildings and many other buildings across history. And speaking of Tudor buildings, I certainly don’t mean those mock Tudor facades put on to 1930s, 40s and 50s buildings to say nothing for new mock housing estates.
Modern Architecture does have its place. When it’s done well it can be absolutely stunning and add to the overall city-scape. However, when it’s done badly it ends up as an eyesore and will haunt us for generations to come. Just look at the modern London skyline and try to tell me the Walkie Talkie building (20 Fenchurch Street) has done anything positive to improve the city skyline.
So what do I make of the ferry terminal and the Museum of Liverpool buildings on the banks of the Mersey. Just a stones throw from the magnificent Royal Liver Building and the functional yet beautifully formed Albert Docks of the Liverpool Dockside?
Charles would probably describe both of these as Monstrous Carbuncles. He might say they are a blight on the city landscape (personally I might describe the entire monarchy that way but I digress), but I’m all in favor of mixing the old and new. This form and presence of these two buildings, whilst in complete contrast to their neighbours, add to the city-scape and i believe complementary to the traditional. Why shouldn’t the old and the new work together, each taking cues from the other, after-all isn’t that how society is supposed to work!
The choice of materials used on these modern buildings; Portland stone faced concrete and large glazed sections reflect the grandeur of the Liver Building. The gently flowing lines reflect the flowing waters of the Mersey and it’s form and function clearly cement it in the modern age.
Reflection on Berlin
Berlin; a city well known for it’s contrasting modern and traditional architecture, manages to make this potential disharmony work. Modern architecture, clearly modern in form, function and approach, often complements the old in the adoption of materials. Buildings complement each other through the use of architectural lines that flow between buildings. Complementary materials, scale and form work to bring clarity to neighbouring structures; managing the continuity and harmony between architectural styles and forming a connection between the old and the new.
Walkie Talkie nightmare
Returning once again to 20 Fenchurch Street and the blight on the London skyline; how could they have got it so wrong. The building does nothing to complement the traditional and adds nothing to the modern, it simply is.
So, where am I going with this? Whilst I love traditional architecture, particularly when it’s done so well as it is in Liverpool, we simply cannot afford to build these anymore. Clearly we need to find cheaper ways of building. However, this doesn’t mean we need to compromise on the design and ascetics. Modern Architecture must compliment the local environment whilst delivering it’s own sense of place. Embracing the new should challenge our way of thinking, the ways we utilise space, and the way we develop our modern identity. To stick in the past is to stagnate, much like the Royals, but again I’m wandering off on a tangent.