AECOM’s Design + Planning practice has won a RIBA 2010 Award for its transformation of the public space at Liverpool’s famous Pier Head.

Liverpool Pier Head – photo: Alan Cookson
Liverpool Pier Head – photo: Alan Cookson

Commissioned by Liverpool City Council and British Waterways, the 2.5ha scheme has created the first major urban canal extension in the UK in a generation, linking the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to the north with dockland water basins adjacent to Kings Dock to the south.

In addition, the project has involved a complete redesign of the surrounding public space, which now provides a rich and varied experience for enjoying city and riverside views or simply watching boats float past. Adding texture and visual interest to the surface, the crease lines that create the paving folds run the length of the site, and are highlighted with a pale, warm-toned natural stone chosen to complement the facades of the Three Graces dockside buildings.

Designed to guide rainwater collection through much of the space, the paving folds splay out as they approach the canal basins, to create a series of seat walls and flights of steps, then finally reconverge to continue their journey through the space.

In addition to being sculpturally attractive, and embodying a high degree of refinement and craftsmanship, this integrated seating is robust and much less vulnerable to vandalism than traditional benches.

The project will now be put forward for the RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist.

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