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Abstract to artefact - Bluecoat Extension

Part 1 Project 2002
Alexandra Williams
University of Liverpool Liverpool UK
The mood within Liverpool city centre is set to one of change, yet amongst this uncertainty there is a true survivor.

The Bluecoat, as the oldest surviving city centre building, has had many roles to play within its city's fabric. Founded as a school, other roles have included the original home of the University of Liverpool School of Architecture, a car showroom and most significantly an arts centre.

The next phase sees the Bluecoat striving to become Liverpool’s premier arts venue, catering for the performer, creator and the observer.

The program included improved access requirements, increased exhibition, workshop and studio space in the form of a new extension.

The design solution is based on an interpretation of the access requirement, treating the issue as more than merely a problem of visitor admittance, but also exploring the accessibility of its cultural image. This signature building had an austere permanence even though its role was indefinable and as a result, its external and cultural image was called into question.

The informality and simplicity of its present function as an interactive production space was unreadable, seeming almost empty, as if forming an experiential void.

The design is of archaeological intentions, forming a visual and physical link to the city, unearthing and revealing what the bluecoat embodies. Springing from street level, a catwalk takes its form from the existing pathways etched into the courtyard.

Transformed from a cobbled and stepped entranceway, the courtyard becomes a sunken exhibition and performance area which can be observed from above or experienced from below.

This new approach anchors the transient nature of the Bluecoat, forming an architectural promenade which links the courtyard to the extension on two levels.

The extension can be described as a type of formalised eclecticism where each emerging pavilion seems individualised, yet the language of level plays, enclosure and exposure remain evident along the catwalk.

The vertical relationship between the cinema space and the exhibition cube, for example, illustrates the nature of the void, explores it's interior depth which provides the essence of what once occupied that space.

It can be said that what has been excavated internally has been decanted to the extension and drawn through to the front courtyard and revealed, in a process that takes the visitor from the ‘abstract’ to the ‘artefact’.

Alexandra Williams


As canvases are to painters, sites are fundamental to architecture. Alex understands this and used the energy of the enclosed and semi-enclosed outdoor spaces to provide a springboard for her design.

For her project, she provided a ‘catwalk’ route that leads the viewer on a procession of visual opportunities. The design is a laudable piece of work and though appears restrained; the energy with which the work has been carried out is fresh and original.

2002
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