Category Archives: Architecture

Not Christmas Shopping at the Museum of Liverpool

Museum of Liverpool

Museum of Liverpool

I carefully planned my time and recently put a day aside for Christmas shopping. This was to be an expedition to Liverpool city centre to finally begin to tick off presents for people on my list. No I’m not being organized, not at all, more like planned chaos and panic. All late and not very many good ideas.

I set off with thoughts along the lines of ‘why do we do this to each other every year’ and ‘this is madness, I’ve no idea what to get so-and-so’ and I’m really too busy for all this… You get the idea. At least it’s not Christmas Eve and buying what’s left at the local all night garage. Not quite.

On the drive in to Liverpool it was mutually decided that we (my wife was with me) couldn’t face the city centre after all and so we headed for the Albert Dock instead with the idea we could combine shopping with a visit to the Tate to see the Alice in Wonderland exhibition currently showing.

Walking through the Dock after parking up and putting the dread of paying the parking fee later to the back of my mind we looked across at the Museum of Liverpool. Now, we both wanted to visit the new museum, but we simply hadn’t had the time. (Being self-employed can make time management difficult). But we thought, now or never, and headed over to the sparkling ultramodern structure.

The museum was designed by the Danish practice 3XN and the exhibition areas by the Los Angeles-based exhibition and theme park designers BRC Imagination Arts. (Not much local talent there then).

Rowan Moore of the Observer had this to say back in July:
How can this have happened? How could so many positive words – “regeneration”, “vision”, “culture” – plus so much public and private funding, plus so much scrutiny by bodies such as the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, have led to what now stands on Liverpool‘s waterfront? How could so many noble titles – Unesco world heritage site, capital of culture, the “Three Graces” – have been bestowed on what is, to use a sophisticated critical term, a godawful mess?

If you want to read the complete review go here.

I’ve lived in Liverpool all my life and the ‘Three Graces’ are simply beautiful, but I don’t find the new Museum of Liverpool a ‘godawful mess’ (possibly the black structures nearby maybe).

I realize that the finished design is not exactly as 3XN would have wanted it but looking at their website they are certainly proud of the end result. There is no intention to compete with the ‘Three Graces’ and the structure remains firmly in it’s own space and it’s own century.

The museum was a pleasure to explore and the light and views from the huge windows at either end of the building very much bring the outside in and almost become part of the exhibits themselves.

A view from the Museum of Liverpool

A view from the Museum of Liverpool

The interior is a little dumbed down but not excessively so and there is a great flexibility built into much of the interior space.

Outside the light sparkles off the materials used and although the landscaping remains unfinished the potential remains for an impressive visitor experience.

Fitting well into it’s allotted space the Museum of Liverpool tells a positive, uplifting story of Liverpool despite the city’s varied fortunes over the years.

Wall painting

Wall painting

I for one enjoyed the my visit and driving back I realized that I still had my Christmas shopping to do… Oh well, there’s always the all-night garage.

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Architect Barbie and Lego too (Not a thought for Friday)

Architect BarbieIt’s been a busy week. I’m building a new website and trying to get my head around new software as well as the work we have on at the moment in the studio. So blogging is being pushed to the end of the ‘to do’ list just now. Normally I would do a ‘Thought for Friday’ but this post just doesn’t really fit in that category and I wanted to post this today as I may not get the chance if I leave it.

I came across two very interesting articles on architecture and toys. The first, as you can see features Barbie, but perhaps not as you may have known her in the past for this is ‘Architect Barbie’. The full story is over on Design Observer where Despina Stratigakos, an architectural historian and professor in the architecture department at the State University of New York at Buffalo has written a very interesting piece on how Architect Barbie came to be.

This is from her article:

One of the most poignant findings of a 2003 study by the Royal Institute of British Architects on the loss of women in architectural practice is that women make this choice reluctantly: they love architecture and don’t want to go.  

The fact is that Barbie appeals to little girls like no other toy. They are proprietary about her — they know the doll is just for them. And whatever Barbie does, she brings it into the sphere of women. She has the power to make things seem natural to little girls. Admittedly, Architect Barbie can’t do all the work. Deeply held attitudes about women must shift before architecture becomes a profession that truly embraces diversity.

Then over on Design Week I find another item devoted to architecture but this time Lego architecture.

Lego has long lead the way in plastic brick products. The expandability of the products are brilliant. The numerous themes and tie-ins are endless. My faves are “City,” a collection of urban professionals going about their business (like you and me), and “fishing Boat,” a high tech plastic sea faring craft (fish excluded). Now Lego has released its new progressive architecture line, including the Guggenheim Musuem and Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright, Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Burj Khalifa in Dubai developed by Emaar Properties.

Farnsworth House Lego

Farnsworth House Lego

Now when are we going to get some toys based on Graphic Design? How about Play Doh typography? If anyone has ideas post them to me.

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Walter Gropius – master of modern architecture

A portrait of Walter Gropius

A portrait of Walter Gropius

I wanted to write a longer post on Walter Gropius today but time and events have conspired against me and this is going to have to be brief. I hope to write a little more another day covering a wonderful exhibition of Bauhaus material in Manchester a number of years ago.

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.

For more go here.

Walter Gropius House

Walter Gropius House 1938

For more on the Walter Gropius House go here.

Impington Village College is the only building designed by Gropius in the UK.

Impington Village College

Impington Village College 1939

Impington Village College is a remarkable achievement and influenced the design of school buildings in subsequent generations. Designed by Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry it was later described by Pesvener as one of the best buildings of its date in England, ‘if not the best’

For more information on Impington go here.

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Thought for Friday

One of the greatest things in life is spending time in public places with the people you love. These spaces can better serve the people who live, work, and play in them. Candy Chang

I wish sticker

I wish this was sticker

Walking up from town today in the pleasant sunshine I couldn’t help but notice the number of shops along Bold Street (Liverpool) that had closed and were now empty, sadly Oddbins now among them. Then I came across this via Design Observer and thought it was a brilliant concept.

“Many cities are full of vacant storefronts and people who need things. … I made these fill-in-the-blank stickers to provide an easy tool to voice what we want, where we want it. Just fill them out and put them on abandoned buildings and beyond. It’s a fun, low-barrier tool for citizens to provide civic input on-site, and the responses reflect the hopes, dreams, and colorful imaginations of different neighborhoods.” Candy Chang, designer, artist, urban planner; www.candychang.com

More I wish stickers

I wish stickers in action

Candy Chang is a public installation artist, designer, and urban planner who likes to make cities more comfortable for people. She co-founded Civic Center, an urban design studio in New Orleans where she combines architecture, graphic design, and urban planning to make thoughtful public spaces and communication tools for everyday issues of city life.

Candy Chang

Candy Chang

She’s passionate about redefining the ways we use public space to share information important to our neighborhoods and to our individual well-being.

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Thought for Friday

Future city

A vintage image of the future

Here I go again with A thought for Friday but due the fact that on Friday I’m going to be in that place again where I have no access to the internet, I’m going to have to post this today (Thursday). So forgive me.

I was having lunch with a good friend of mine in FACT recently. We were discussing the details of the architecture of the building surrounding us and the methods by which both architects and designers approach problem solving and project management. My friend is an architect by profession and was telling me how architects don’t like looking backwards when designing a new building and would prefer to develop something new or even cutting-edge given the chance, but often the client would prefer something that looks, shall we say, ‘more traditional’. This got my grey matter working (what’s left of it anyway).

In an earlier post I mentioned “design at the centre of economic and social renewal”. I think the ‘looking back’ attitude that designers and architects and probably many others encounter is largely based on fear of the unknown and an unwillingness to take risks. This attitude is often repeated in government where vision beyond the next 5 year term is sadly lacking. If politicians were influenced more by engineers, architects, designers, writers and artists instead of bankers, civil servants, and accountants I sometimes wonder what kind of society we could make.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but that’s part of my forward-looking attitude.

On the other hand: Sir Richard Lambert (outgoing chief of the CBI) recently cited the government’s failure to publish a promised white paper on growth, originally scheduled for publication last autumn. “The impression was given that there simply weren’t enough good ideas around to justify such a publication,” he said.

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