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Part 1 Project 2011
David Oakes
University of Liverpool | UK
The brief required the resolution of a number of urban design problems. Located on “The Strand”, a six lane carriageway splitting Liverpool from it’s reclaimed and now historic dockland, the site was constrained by World Heritage Site status and heavy urban traffic.

The scheme required me to “redefine luxury city living” by designing a luxury hotel and communal facility. The specific requirement to “redefine luxury” inspired me to reject typical steel and glass multistorey typologies.

Designing in a World Heritage context required a specific, vernacular solution. By creating a palimpsest map, overlaying modern and historic data, I discovered the course of the pre-industrial River Mersey intersected the site. The conceptual aim became to reinforce this lost historic natural boundary. Abstracting qualities from coastal rock forms, cliffs and sea stacks became a physical way of referencing the forgotten headland.

I split the program into three forms. An accommodation tower, housing luxury, deluxe and penthouse living spaces. A luxury city spa providing relaxation for body and mind, and a timber entrance pavilion, designed to contrast with the two heavy slate clad volumes either side.

The creation of an “architectural atmosphere” became my personal definition of luxury. Full and double height spaces were combined with carefully sourced natural materials; the use of simple pure forms created a monastic atmosphere. Spaces became a celebration of form and materiality, and the rejection of excessive opulence and heavy ornamentation.

Contrasting materials became a way of celebrating a natural simplicity. Timber living pavilions were designed to seem visual suspended within a monolithic slate casing. They provided a softer, transitory human scale, contained within the permanence and monumentality of the slate structure.

The spa form emphasised both the historic context and the celebration of a refined architectural atmosphere. Moving through the spa becomes a journey, an abstraction of scaling a mountain, passing through threshold and vaulted space. The weaving assent culminates in a external roof top “tarn”. Here, an aqua-duct spans parallel to the strand; swimming along it becomes an act of remembrance, embodying the movement and flow once produced by the old river.

David Oakes


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