International Symposium // STARCHITECTURE On The Mersey? John Moores University, Liverpool UK, Jan. 22, 2015

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As Peel Holdings unfold giant plans for both sides of the Mersey – Liverpool Waters and Wirral Waters - there is need to review our policies for the architectural and urban design of the Mersey waterfronts. Their complex problems will not be solved by facile images; nor will quick resorts to ready nostrums conjured by charismatic ‘signature designers’ conduce to the capabilities for latitude and evolution crucial to all cities.

‘Iconic’ towers may have a place; but the real key to urban vitality is free activity of citizens among and across places resistant to monopoly. Yet, where commissioned with care and consent, there are cases where dazzling works by ‘starchitects’ have contributed not just to the profits of big projects but to their cultural and civic value. Their ‘image’ appeal, however, has led too often to superficial imitations masking fundamental error.

In their book ‘Starchitecture: Scenes, Actors & Spectacles In Contemporary Cities’ Davide Ponzini & Michele Nastasi argue that the successes and failings of many such projects may be understood through the politics, financing and methods of their procurement. Therefore, our symposium will address the future of the Mersey waterfronts by considering their prospects in comparison with Ponzini & Nastasi’s presentation of cases in Bilbao, Abu Dhabi, Paris, New York and elsewhere.

Johnson Auditorium, JMU Art & Design Academy

13.00-13.30. Brian Hatton: The Past & Future Significance of the Mersey Waterfront.
13.30-14.00. Trevor Skempton: Major projects around Greater Liverpool since 1945.
14.00-14.30. Paul Grover : Presentation of Peel Holdings’ ‘Liverpool Waters’ and ‘Wirral Waters’.
14.30-15.00: Questions & discussion.
15.00-15.15: Pause.
15.15-16.30: Davide Ponzini & Michele Nastasi: ‘Starchitecture’ researches.
16.30-18.00: Discussion, considering how Ponzini & Nastasi’s case-studies may illuminate issues facing
big architectural & urban projects around Greater Liverpool.
18.00-19.00: Refreshments.
Speakers and Symposium:

Paul Finch OBE: Editorial Director of Architectural Review & Architects’ Journal, Director of the World
Architecture Festival; deputy chairman of the UK Design Council and previously of CABE (Commission for
Architecture and the Built Environment).

David Dunster : Emeritus Roscoe Professor of Architecture, Liverpool University.

Brian Hatton : Tutor at LJMU & the Architectural Association. Guest-edited 2008 AR issue on Liverpool.

Rodney Holmes: LJMU Hon. Fellow. Projects Director for ‘Liverpool 1’; RIBA 2009 ‘Client of the Year’;
Mersey Partnership Chair; member of the Mersey Gateway board; Trustee of the Liverpool Theatres Trust.

Paul Grover : Arup, Consultants to Peel Holdings’ on the Liverpool & Wirral Waters projects.

Jack Self: Reviews Editor at Architectural Review; editor of Real Estates: Life without Debt [2014].

Trevor Skempton: Urban Design Advisor to Liverpool Council 2003-09; the Design Commission of Wales.


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