‘Design is the art of predicting the needs of the future.’
Tinker Hatfield, architect – the designer of the Nike Air Jordan
The ironically named Mount Pleasant carpark sits as a massive concrete anachronism at the edge of Liverpool City Centre. The students were asked to imagine what might be done with such a site if it were to be cleared and given over to public realm. Economically very unlikely, the project was always intended as an aspirational thought experiment, a ‘what if?’ through which the students might explore and discover freely. Through a series of workshops with urban designers and landscape architects each student explored the opportunities offered by this site through their often very personal agendas, from countering the mental health and homelessness problems in the city, to imagining it as a floating cultural remnant over a flooded city.
The autumn project culminated with a small agenda defined functional pavilion structure situated within a landscaped public realm, but what had not been told to the students was that the following term they would return to the same site to design a much larger scheme, a permanent home for the Liverpool Biennial Foundation. This forced the students into a challenging but richly productive reiterative process to accommodate the Foundation alongside the pavilion and landscape while maintaining and refining their agenda within all these components.
To assist them in exploring these ideas the studio visited the famous art foundations of Paris (Pompidou, Cartier and Louis Vuitton), as well as the park and pavilions of Parc de la Villette, just before Brexit and a couple of months before the Lockdown.
The Urban Creative project is intentionally provocative. The studio is set up to work as a laboratory for the students’ experiments rather than a factory with predictable outcomes, linking their production to that of currently active cultural innovators as well as architectural precedent. By moving many of the important decisions clearly into their control we offered them the chance to finish their undergraduate degree with a series of projects in which they were deeply invested, and hopefully proud.
This is the first year that this studio has run in third year at Liverpool School of Architecture, but we tried to resist the pressure to be safe in the programme we ran. We all learned a lot, and look forward to continuing the experiments next year.
We are truly grateful for the efforts of the students in resolving their schemes in the most trying of conditions. We wish them all well with whatever paths they take from here, and hope they will look back with pride at what they achieved.
Thanks also to Dr.Stephan Finnegan for his help with the calculation of whole life costings and the real costs of recycling the Mount Pleasant carpark; Anna Couch and all the team at Plan-it for their urban design, SRF and landscape advice, support and the workshops; Aimee Harrison and Sunny Cheung from the Liverpool Biennial for their support and ideas. In terms of studio teaching we are grateful to Alan Berman, Adam Booth and Viet Dam for their assistance with reviews,; Greg Beattie for his structural expertise; and finally, to Keith Webber, Julia Burke and Anthony Mackay for their excellent tutoring throughout the year.
Ben Devereau – Urban Creative Studio Lead
Chan, Tak Ming
Liu, ChangErica Menezes
Ben Devereau (studio lead)
Greg Beattie (structural)
Stephen Finnegan (environmental)
Anna Couch and all at Plan-It
Aimee Harrison and Sunny Cheung at the Liverpool Biennial