Waterfront Transformation Project: Canning Dock Competition

Placemaking competition launched to redesign historic waterfront space #NMLWaterfront

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19 March 2021: Following National Museum Liverpool’s (NML) announcement in January 2021 about ambitions to transform the city’s historic waterfront landscape, the placemaking competition that will make this a reality, is now being launched. 

This represents an exceptional opportunity to find a multi-disciplinary team to transform part of this world-renowned UNESCO World Heritage site into a stunning leisure and cultural destination, with a powerful heritage narrative.  

The competition will be managed by Colander Associates on behalf of NML and will be supported by £120,000 of funding from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, as part of the Race Equality Programme launched by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram last year. 

Spanning the area between the Royal Albert Dock and Mann Island, the transformation project will take in key landmarks including the creation of pedestrian links to the Canning Dock while also bringing life to multiple buildings within the area as part of NML’s 10-year masterplan of transformation of the waterfront. Poised to become a cultural anchor for Liverpool and aiming to play a significant role in the post Covid19 regeneration project for the region, it will create a dynamic environment for the benefit of the museums, our communities, visitors, and employees of the many business’ in the area and the city. 

Director of National Museums Liverpool Laura Pye said: “This is the really fun and exciting part of our Waterfront project, and I look forward to seeing how it all develops. The Canning Dock is a hugely important public space with great potential, and it is so important that we deliver the needs of existing and new communities – offering people a space where they can gather to laugh, learn, play, and relax. 

We want to transform people’s experiences into something memorable, but importantly this project also presents us with the opportunity to represent the historic significances of the site. We want to integrate the feedback and ideas directly from our communities, who far too often are underrepresented – we want to make it a space for all.” 

Promoting positive change in our everyday spaces, this competition will seek a multi-disciplinary team who will not only be able to generate wonderful transformational design ideas that are beautiful yet functional but do so through a process that is inclusive and collaborative. Competition entrants will be asked to highlight their commitment to ethnic diversity as part of their submissions, reflecting the NML’s ongoing commitment to creating a more equitable environment and being a catalyst for social and environmental change.  

The two-stage competition will be open to both national and international design teams including architects, landscapers and structural, civil and services engineers. An exciting opportunity where artists from multi-disciplinary teams can create, collaborate, experiment, and engage directly with the community and audiences at the waterfront – nurturing creativity and newness. The winning team will need to amalgamate technical competence and experience with a joyous and inclusive approach to place making; animation of the space will be as important as its infrastructure and critically, the design will need to respond to the transatlantic history of the site and ensure Black communities are engaged and represented. Liverpool was at the centre of the transatlantic slave trade and it is imperative these stories of the past are considered and seamlessly integrated when developing designs for the public space. 

Breathing new life into the Canning Dock, as well as creating new pedestrian bridges to improve accessibility, the placemaking competition is looking for an exemplary design which is sympathetic to the history of the site. Additionally, there are also multiple smaller buildings that are not fully used – including the Cooperage, Mermaid House, Pilotage Building, Piermaster’s House and Great Western Railway Building – representing commercial and cultural opportunities for NML as part of its sustainability planning, in order to generate more income streams to support its important work. NML is already working with architects MICA and local firm Harrison Stringfellow to progress a feasibility study into the potential to rejuvenate these buildings to create exciting, social, and flexible spaces, and the organisation is actively seeking partners to work with on this area of the project.   

As well as attracting tourists, driving urban regeneration, regional and social economic growth, the ambitious plans have been accelerated by the continuing presence of Covid-19. With many of us remaining close to home and exploring local hidden gems, the pandemic has demonstrated that locations should become better places to inhabit, as well as visit.  

Colander Associates said: 

"We couldn't be more pleased to be invited to support NML with their international competition for this stunning, UNESCO World Heritage site on the waterfront in Liverpool. This is a complex project, and the competition will challenge multi-disciplinary teams to reinterpret the physical heritage while responding to the sombre social history of the site; the aim being to create a reflective but joyous place for future generations.  

We are looking for design leadership, collaboration and the interdisciplinary skills that will enable design ideas to flourish, and eagerly look forward to seeing what the competitors come up with.” 

The competition will be judged by a selected panel of industry experts who have made huge contributions to their respective fields of architecture, art, community engagement and urban planning. The judging panel will be announced shortly.  

Those interested in applying for the competition, are invited to submit their initial expressions of interest by midday on Friday 23 April for consideration by the judging panel. Details of how to apply for the competition is below. 

Notes to editors:  

About National Museums Liverpool  

National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attracted more than 3 million visitors in 2019. Our venues are Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Seized!, Sudley House and Lady Lever Art Gallery. National Museums Liverpool is regulated by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Museums and galleries regulated by DCMS are exempt charities under Schedule 3 of the Charities Act 2011. Registered Office: World Museum, William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8EN. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk  

About Colander Associates  

In December 2020, National Museums Liverpool appointed Colander Associates to be the design competition providers. They will work closely with NML to articulate the ambitions for an enlarged and enhanced waterfront visitor destination. The competition will be launched in March 2021 and will be officially advertised on the Government’s e-notification service, Find A Tender. Details of the competition will also be published and promoted through NML’s and Colander’s website and social media channels. A dedicated portal for competitors will be established on the Colander website. www.colander.co.uk/