Monday, 20 March 2017

Cheer leader

Someone has accused me of being the cheerleader for mediocre architecture in Liverpool. IMHO nothing could be further from the truth. It may seem, to some, that by not condemning the new buildings provided they are adequate, that I'm setting the bar far too low. However, on a lot of the sites that are being developed the bar is currently several feet below the ground and any improvement is to be welcomed.
From just before WW2 until very recently Liverpool was certainly on the back foot economically and hence in terms of its architecture, the fine examples were allowed to rot until they were in danger of falling down, and others were swept away in an attempt to modernise to get back on the development path by correcting what were seen as infrastructure failings. In reality, this did very little. Liverpool's decline was a product of 2 factors, firstly the decline in the British Empire, this removed the stranglehold British manufacturing had on the former colonies and simply British industry protected behind imperial trade barriers could not cope, the colonies bought from other places with world class products. This decline led to both a decrease in imports and exports, from the north and midlands, the source of a lot of Liverpool's trade.  Secondly, technology led to increased concentration of management etc in London, previously you had needed a Liverpool office to handle the day to day running of any business with an interest here, but gradually the increase in telecommunications reduced the need when head office was only a phone call, fax or email away. Coupled with changes in maritime technology, bigger boats and containerisation.
One way or another Liverpool suffered people moved out of the city centre to the suburbs and new town around. When housing redevelopment happened, first high-density tower blocks were built, each one the same, destroying large areas, some of which needed to go others need to be restored. Then the tenements went, Gerrard gardens, Kent gardens etc, again some needed to go. Then the tower blocks went, replaced with out of place semi detached. Reducing once lively and bustling areas near the city centre to misplaced suburbs.
Businesses in the city centred pottered along but the to Let signs were becoming more numerous and the derelict buildings more common. There were some attempts at speculative buildings, some of which went wrong. The site of Peters Building has been empty since the mid-70s after a scheme to develop the site went bust before the new build was started. The area around Hackins Hey suffered a similar fate and lies mostly empty now. Opportunities missed and mistakes were made by the beginning of the 90s things had bottomed out. The UK as a whole and especially the south-east had gone through several economic booms followed by recessions, Liverpool had only had the recessions.
Things began to look up in the 2000s, perhaps because they could get much worse, and at least when the 2008 crash came, we were at least in the same boat as everyone else, for the first time in a long time, but town was horribly pock marked with car parks and ruined buildings, but sprouting amongst them this time were cranes, perhaps more cranes that have been in Liverpool since WW2. They were beginning to fill in some of the spaces, cover some of the blight. What they were building wasn't always welcomed but it was clean and tidy and spoke of new life. It wasn't the highest level of architecture but it was functional.
If you turn up at a job interview wearing a cheap but presentable suit all spit and polish and with a willingness and enthusiasm, then you will be in with a chance. Get it right and the next time you have to go looking for a job it can be an Armani suit. Liverpool's new buildings are that cheap suit, they are the foot in the door, in 10 or 20 years time if Liverpool's on the up, developers will be willing to disregard these buildings and replace them with better and bigger with the same alacrity we would dispose of the cheap suit.
If we insist on not doing any interviews until we have a good suit then we are likely to be out of work for a long time, in the end, the quickest way to an Armani suit is via an M&S special.
In the process of putting up these buildings, there is also the buzz of industry and progress, something which adds to the attraction of the place. People may not like the stag nights and hen parties roaming town of a weekend but not only do they provide employment, they also show that the young do not share the views of Liverpool gained from Brookside, Bread & Militant. The bigotry and closed minded attitude towards Liverpool can hopefully be a thing of the past and help, every good night in Liverpool, every good student experience is one more positive attitude to Liverpool, even if they never come back they only have to say they had a good time a few times to make it worthwhile.

No comments:

Post a Comment