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The Promenade: Drift to Stanley Dock

Part 2 Project 2009
Joseph Ewen
Elaine Halford
Donald Shek
Carl Thomas
University of Liverpool, UK
Liverpool’s North Docks form a section of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. The demise of the shipping industry in the 1980’s caused their abandonment, consequently, the 1.5 kilometre-long stretch of barren waterfront between Alexandra Tower and Stanley Dock is currently in an advanced stage of dereliction and removed from public access.

The project reconnects the city with the historic North Docks through an extension of the existing promenade, which currently terminates abruptly at the Pier Head. The linear park encompasses three themes: Discovery, Activity and Idleness. Inspired by Guy Debord’s ‘Situationists’, the concept of ‘drifting’ informed the design strategy to create architectural spaces for spontaneous events to occur.

As a project of urban infrastructure it also articulates two existing heritage sites with future speculative developments on the west side of the Leeds Liverpool canal, whilst becoming a public buffer zone between the river and city.

A UNESCO Information Centre & Maritime events post marks the start of the journey. It provides information about the World Heritage site, exhibition spaces and a permanent post to serve maritime events such as the Tall Ships Race and Barge Festival. The form of this architectural element occludes the view of the landscape beyond producing a sense of intrigue and heightening the expectations of passers-by.

Unrestricted by a definitive path the journey can be undertaken by water (canal), on land (promenade) or the aerial path-network. Flanked by the Canal and River Mersey it transforms into a landscape of fractured planes and shattered geometries, a reaction to site lines between follies and openings in the dock wall.

A foreign vessel moored within the graving docks, the peeling canopy provides shelter to the amphitheatre below and provides a visual link leading to a secluded garden. The Cafe enables personal interaction with the adjacent Skate Park and offers views of the site from a unique vantage point. The experience then concludes at Stanley Dock; a space of idleness and irresolution. Awaiting future development, a linear jetty bestows the panoramic view of the ruin, waiting for its new function as a community generator and commuter travel solution.

Joseph Ewen
Elaine Halford
Donald Shek
Carl Thomas


The Capital of Culture came and went, almost unnoticed, leaving behind an assortment on new buildings in the city centre but very little in the periphery of Liverpool, an area that remains as deprived and unattended as it was before 2008. Amongst those abandoned peripheries is the river front. Interestingly, the city (authorities and architects) has turned its back to the river; even though Liverpool owes its very existence and past economic success to it. Only remnants are left of the time of opulence: derelict docks and abandoned warehouses scattered along several miles of river front.

As a counterpoint to the overtly utilitarian architecture produced in the city during the past five years, this project proposes to turn a neglected section of the river front into a public linear park and promenade. It is a refreshing architectural proposition to offer something to the people in an attempt to circumvent consumerism. The project finds inspiration in the revolutionary ideas of the 1960s avant-garde: Situationism International and Superstudio come readily to mind. Yet, the students do not replicate the proposals made half a century ago. Instead they translated critically their ideas in order to respond to the specific circumstances of Liverpool today.

It was a highly contested project. Not every one in the school of architecture believed in the possibility of a critical architecture capable of questioning vain and socially detached contemporary architectural practices. The four students in this group faced heavy criticism and were forced to make some concessions. Yet, they remained faithful to their original ideas and produced an elegant and exciting landscape which contains a series of voluptuous structures for both specific and non-specific purposes. It shows talent, technical skill and determination.

In sum, this project represents a balanced mixture of theoretical investigation, formal exploration and, more importantly, socio-political concern.

Tutor(s)
Dr Felipe Hernandez
2009
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