Liverpool has embarked on an ambitious programme to revitalise the central docks and the area in front of the iconic Three Graces waterfront buildings. The focus of work on this high-profile site has been the creation of a canal extension linking the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to the north with dockland water basins adjacent to King’s Waterfront (formerly King’s Dock) to the south.
With the Three Graces historic waterside buildings as its backdrop, this 2.5 hectare public plaza facing the River Mersey is an urban landscape with broad appeal and varied uses, It incorporates sunken water basins as part of a new canal link and open-air performance areas for cultural celebration.
The site is within the context of an AECOM Design + Planning-led regeneration masterplan, including the new landmark Museum of Liverpool and a mixed-use development of homes, shops and offices to the south, along with the remodelling of the famous Mersey ferry terminal.
Approximate Map Location
Liverpool City Council and British Waterways
|Type of scheme|
Public realm and canal link
Winner, Design 1-5 ha category, LI Awards 2010
£22 million (£9m for plaza)
To create a contemporary and inspiring public place, reinventing the site as an international gateway to the city; to create a canal extension linking the Leeds and Liverpool Canal with dockland water basins, revitalising the existing water spaces with tourist-based boating activity.
Landscape architect: AECOM Design + PlanningCivil |Services and transport engineering: Liverpool 2020Structural engineering (canal) | Contract administration: ArupProject managers: Liverpool City Council and British Waterways | Lighting design: Graham Festenstein Lighting Design
Liverpool City Council
Through the selection of robust materials and careful detailing, the area was designed to achieve a long design life: 125 years for the canal and for the public realm paving and seat walls a minimum of 40 years. 3-D computer modelling and computer numerically controlled (CNC) cutting were specified in order to achieve fine detailing and refinement in the shaping of the stone steps and seating. This made it possible to explore the use of complex fluid forms in a refined, cost-effective manner, utilising pioneering digital craftsmanship.
The new canal, at 650 metres in length, is the first major canal extension in the UK in a generation. The canal extension was excavated through the public space. Running beneath the plaza, it becomes visible at two large open basins, and is separated by an expansive lawn echoing the scale and presence of the Three Graces.
For navigational reasons, the canal's water level was designed to be several feet below the surface of the public realm. Upper and lower levels are linked by paving, which incorporates crease lines that elegantly change as they move through the space. Approaching the canal basins, they splay out to dramatic effect creating seat walls that morph into flights of steps, finally re-converging to continue their journey providing inviting and sheltered places to sit close to the water's edge.
Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering