HOW LIVERPOOL WATERS WILL SAFEGUARD AND PRESENT THE VALUES OF LIVERPOOL’S WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Grounds for designation as a World Heritage Site
A defined area of Liverpool was ‘inscribed’ on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004 as the supreme example of a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence. The World Heritage Committee agreed with the UK government that the World Heritage Site (WHS) has Outstanding Universal Value because:
- Liverpool played a leading role in the development of dock construction, port management and international trading systems in the 18th and 19th centuries
- The buildings and structures of the port and the city are an exceptional representation of mercantile culture
- The city had a major influence on the worldwide movement of populations and change in the 18th and 19th centuries through its involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and as the leading port of mass European emigration to the New World.
The Liverpool World Heritage Site thus represents the mercantile and maritime history of Liverpool. It includes the historic core of the city centre and the area of former docks. Within it are six areas of distinct character, each reflecting different patterns of historic growth. The Liverpool Waters site, encompassing the Central Docks, is within one of these: the Stanley Dock Character Area.
The contribution made by the Liverpool Waters site to the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site
42% of the Liverpool Waters site is within the World Heritage Site, and makes up about 22% of the whole inscribed Site. It is of special value for the group of surviving historic docks, the dock boundary wall and the general dockland landscape. As well as the dock basins, within the site there are historic buildings including the Victoria Clock Tower and the Dock Master’s House, as well as original dockyard surfaces incorporating capstans, bollards and rail tracks. Just outside the development site are important structures such as the Stanley Dock with its massive Tobacco Warehouse, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and the Waterloo Warehouse.
Safeguarding and Presenting the Values of the Liverpool World Heritage Site
The Liverpool Waters proposals are bold and ambitious. They reflect the essential characteristics of Liverpool which are associated with the Outstanding Universal Value of its World Heritage Site such as the city’s history of vision and determination, its commercial astuteness, and its spirit of internationalism. In Liverpool ‘spirit of place’ does not only come from the past, and it certainly does not result from an attitude of ‘playing safe’. It depends on maintaining the process of change and transformation that was central to the period that is now celebrated in the World Heritage Site inscription.
How will the value of the World Heritage Site be protected and enhanced by the Liverpool Waters proposal, and how will it be presented to the public?
Based on Liverpool City Council’s guidance for the World Heritage Site, the scheme for Liverpool Waters will bring long-term mixed-use development to the redundant Central Docks in accordance with an agreed strategic masterplan. Based on the heritage of the site, and the features that are central to the World Heritage Site designation, the scheme will create a unique waterfront quarter with exciting and sustainable new buildings and public spaces.
The aspects of Outstanding Universal Value that are embodied in the site will be protected, enhanced and presented to the public in the following ways:
- Innovative Techniques and Methods of Dock Construction and Port Management
- In the construction of the Central Docks, Jesse Hartley, Liverpool‘s Dock Engineer from 1824-60, pioneered the development of inter-linked enclosed docks, connected to other transport systems, which influenced the design of ports worldwide. Hartley’s 19th century successors adapted the system and introduced further innovation. Yet today, its historic structures are gradually falling into decay, whilst most of the area remains not accessible to the public. The Liverpool Waters development will thus allow the dockland landscape to be clearly understood by the public for the first time, through the protection, promotion and interpretation of the values for which the World Heritage Site was inscribed.
- All heritage assets within the site have been carefully recorded and they will be retained and restored, including former operational buildings, the dock boundary wall, historic surfacing and quayside artifacts. Its archaeology, demonstrating the evolution of the docks, will be protected and explained to visitors. The dock basins will be restored, including dock gates, and used for recreation so as to recapture the active character that they enjoyed in their heyday.
- The historic importance of the site will also be celebrated within the layout of the public realm, which will encourage exploration across the site via pedestrian and cycle routes connecting a variety of public spaces defined by heritage features and their riverside setting.
- Maritime Mercantile Culture
- The distinctive aspects of mercantile culture relating to the site are seen chiefly in such features as the grandeur of the river wall, the dock retaining walls, the Victoria Clock Tower and the dock boundary wall. The warehouses beyond the site at Stanley Dock and the Waterloo Warehouse are statements of confidence and civic pride, as are the three great early 20th century buildings at the Pier Head beyond the site to its south. These features remain a focus of attention within the scheme.
- Visibility of Liverpool’s landmark buildings such as the Liver Building, the Victoria Tower, and the Stanley Dock warehouses are protected within the proposals in a series of key views, vistas, and revealed views from across the River Mersey and within the site. Whilst development will reduce the 21st century openness of the site which is the result of economic stagnation and dereliction, the masterplan will introduce a more focused appreciation of the heritage assets within a new and vibrant urban setting. Viewed from the west bank of the river at the Wirral Promenade, from New Brighton to Seacombe, a sequence of views will be revealed, providing a sense of discovery and an anticipation that the Liverpool Waters site contains something special that is very much worth visiting.
- A new spirit of innovation will be introduced, building on the links currently being created with China and other developing nations by Liverpool City Council and the developer, Peel. Not only will this bring inward investment to Liverpool, it will re-establish a sense of internationalism that is a crucial ingredient of Liverpool’s mercantile past.
- Outstanding Example of a World Mercantile City
- The outstanding aspects of a World Mercantile City that are embodied most forcefully in the Central Docks are the dock layout, the form of the dockland landscape and its relationship with the river, and the monumental dock architecture. The Liverpool Waters masterplan maintains the layout of the group of northern docks, it reinforces the form of the water spaces and follows the historic pattern of quayside structures.
- The footprints of proposed building blocks compare with the rectangular transit sheds and warehouses that are associated with the docks. Although many of the buildings will be taller than those that preceded them, they maintain the overall horizontality that is characteristic of the dockland landscape. In the central part of the site, where the docks have been altered and infilled in the 20th century, the layout reflects the pattern of the original docks and has been designed to avoid below-ground remains. Tall buildings - both in the extension to the existing city centre commercial cluster and those in a proposed secondary cluster on the site of the former Clarence Power Station - have been set back from the riverfront behind a ribbon of mid-rise development that reinforces the horizontal nature of the dock landscape. This will strengthen the river edge and enclose the water spaces.
- The relationship between the differing character areas is vital to understanding the World Heritage Site. Thus, seen from across the river, a sense of connection is maintained between the Pier Head, the Albert Dock and the Central Docks. This will be maintained with the Pier Head group of buildings remaining the focal point of the city centre.
- Physical communication between the Pier Head and the Central Docks will also be enhanced by the creation of a riverfront walkway and cycle route that will open up the waterfront and promote access to the dockland as an extension of the city centre.