Matthew Collier

Car Parks to Cultural Centres

The Car Parks to Cultural Centres scheme aims to reflect and influence the place perception of Liverpool within the design of a new Art Foundation building, located in the Granby Four Streets area of Toxteth. Over the last 30 years, the city has garnered a reputation amongst outsiders to the region as an antisocial and unwelcoming place. The Liverpool Foundation scheme effectively acts as a barrier between the ‘outsider’ and the ‘insiders’ of the Toxteth community. Visitors from outside the city, either those from the city’s student populace in Wavertree or those travelling from further afield are faced with a facade that may match their bleak, unwelcoming or uninspiring expectations. The scheme aims uses the architectural metaphor of a multi-storey car park to visually represent these prejudices, as such buildings often share similar perceptions of facilitating crime and antisocial behaviour. The car park vernacular has been achieved through the use of precast concrete elements within the Foundation building’s main structure and façade, in combination with masonry panels created from the brickwork of the former Ducie Street terrace. These elements combine to create a brutalist aesthetic which has been achieved at a low environmental cost, with the entirety of the Foundation’s structural skeleton and the majority of the external envelope comprising recycled embodied carbon.

Ducie Street Section
Ducie Street Section

Those that overcome their initial impressions of the Foundation buildings tough exterior and enter beyond the divide drawn at the Kingsley Road facade, are met with a creative hub that champions the needs of its users. The interior accommodation reflects the insiders perspective of Liverpool as a city with unrivalled community spirit and rich cultural heritage, with the majority of the internal spaces being dedicated to the incubation of small creative businesses.

In addition to providing studio facilities for local businesses of varying sizes, the Liverpool Foundation building also offers gallery facilities. Able to exhibit not just the work produced by the Foundation community itself, these spaces will also house artwork curated by the Liverpool Biennial Foundation which is situated in the building.

As well as the internal spaces, the Foundation also offers external spaces that enhance the area’s urban realm whilst retaining the hallmarks of the original Ducie Street fabric. An open plaza leaves space to be inhabited by the Granby Market, whilst the hanging gardens, pond and water feature provide keynote soundscaping effects that combat traffic noise pollution. The existing worn and heavily used basketball net has been replaced by a full court to be used by the community.