A while ago, I took my family to the recently-opened Museum of Liverpool. Our opinions of its exhibits differed considerably, as you might expect, but we were unanimous in our verdict of the edifice itself (Figure 26.2). What a sight. My eyes are still smarting. The phrase ‘in keeping with its surroundings’ seems to have been made unceremoniously redundant. There, among the Baroque, Byzantine and Italian Renaissance influences of the Three Graces, now stands the proverbial sore thumb.
Sadly, on our way out, there was no escape from the visual assault. Mann Island, opposite the museum’s main entrance, is now home to three monstrous chunks of granite-and-glass (Figure 26.3), which obscure the view of the Three Graces from the ever-popular Albert Dock. Worse still, they are black – the only non-white buildings at the Pier Head. In terms of aesthetics, fine architectural detail and respect for surroundings, my sons’ Lego constructions are arguably superior.
La guinda del pastel, however, is the new Ferry Terminal (Figure 26.4). This is truly awful. Having such a ludicrous block of wonky masonry dumped directly in front of the (Grade 1 listed) Royal Liver Building is akin to seeing the image of George W. Bush carved into Mount Rushmore.
Figure 26.4: The new Ferry Terminal, beyond a wide expanse of concrete with not a single tree or shrub in sight.
Copyright 2011 Paul Spradbery
There is, of course, no accounting for taste. This leads to a more fundamental point. Architecture, as with art and literature, is vulnerable to acute subjectivity. Was Gaudi a better architect than Frank Lloyd Wright? Were Bach’s works ‘better’ than those of Mozart? Is an unmade bed a ‘better’ art exhibit than Constable’s Hay Wain? Some arguments cannot be settled, and this is the very reason why charlatans and bullshitters are so prevalent among arty types. Anyone who believes Liverpool’s new buildings are hideous could be dismissed as a Philistine who ‘just doesn’t get it’. The world of science is different. Its rational and empirical nature ensures that pretentiousness and ignorance are swiftly, and brutally, exposed and condemned.
If the architects are damned by their own creations, then, what about those who sanctioned the planning applications in the first place? Liverpool Council’s decision-makers were ultimately responsible for desecrating the Pier Head. I have already heard some cynics suggest that ‘the kickbacks must have been substantial’. Of course, libel laws being as they are, I would never publish a conclusion without evidence, however logical it might be to draw.
All the unlovely buildings (Figures 26.5, 26.6 and 26.7) – where do they all come from?