An acclaimed multidisciplinary team made up of the eponymous architectural practice of Asif Khan, Sir David Adjaye OBE, Marian Kamara, and Theaster Gates has been selected by National Museums Liverpool (NML) as the winning group in a competition to redesign Liverpool’s Canning Dock.
The winning team also includes Plan A Consultants, Prior + Partners, The Place Bureau, Hara Design Institute, AKTII, Arup, and Donald Insall Associates. They were unanimously chosen by a jury of local representatives and industry experts, beating out five other shortlisted teams that included the likes of Arup, BIG, DSDHA, OMMX, and Shedkm. Together they will transform “a public space that has an incredible unique history, embedded with a rich and powerful heritage linked to the very roots of Liverpool’s port.”
The competition is part of NML’s 10-year master plan to reimagine Liverpool’s waterfront. The ensuing project will transform the area between the Royal Albert Dock and Mann Island, as well as revitalize all waterfront facilities. The site was used in the 18th century to repair and clean ships involved in the transatlantic slave trade. A primary focus of the project is to respond to this history, exploring ways to bring Liverpool’s involvement in slavery more into the public realm. In addition, it seeks to ensure Liverpool’s Black communities are engaged and represented throughout.
“We are committed to tackling racial inequality and facing up to the shameful legacy of our region’s role in the slave trade,” said Councillor Mike Wharton and Liverpool City Region Portfolio Holder for Culture, Tourism and the Visitor Economy. “Our International Slavery Museum is the only museum of its kind in the country and a vitally important institution, not just locally but nationally and internationally too, in educating people on the sins of the past. This exciting project will both redevelop the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building and transform the entire waterfront, attracting even more people to visit and learn about the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy.”
The starting point and highlight of the project will be the redevelopment of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Building, which will be at the heart of the reinvigorated International Slavery Museum. It will be complete with a “dramatic” new front door that will lead visitors “to spaces to explore and investigate the transatlantic slave trade and legacies,” according to NML’s statement.
The team’s work will focus on the public realm and include new bridges from the Pump House to Mann Island, transformation of the two dry docks into an educational and cultural experience, and animation of the water. As noted by NML, in their submission, the team identifies that reconnection and accessible recreational routes will play a critical role in the development. They will work closely with NML, stakeholders, communities, the public, and the wider design team on the project.
“Our collaborative team composed of technical architects, planetary architects and an artist envisions the NML Waterfront Transformation as an opportunity to powerfully reformulate the history of Liverpool through re-invigorating the diverse social, civic and environmental context of the city,” said David Adjaye. “Recognising the history of the surrounding waterfront, connecting the region’s cultural infrastructure, and creating a space in which the public realm and public arts can connect, holds the potential to create a distinct, engaging, and empowering identity for the community to grow with and in.”
The design competition was made possible through funding from Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. NML is currently working to secure funds to realize the project. This includes a bid that was submitted by Liverpool City Council to the government’s Levelling Up Fund. The outcome will be announced this fall.
“The Canning Dock transformation is a chance to explore the power of architecture as a storytelling tool to bridge the gaps in knowledge that exist about the history of Liverpool as well as this significant site,” said Mariam Kamara. “The NML Waterfront Transformation is an opportunity to pull on the threads that make up the history of the transatlantic slave trade - from Africa, across the Atlantic to the US and back to Liverpool — to bridge gaps, to exhume memories and ultimately bring to the fore an exciting space for the public to explore and engage with the history of Liverpool while firmly facing towards the future.”
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