UNESCO - Save\'s talk about Liverpools threatened status

UNESCO World Heritage status and the battle for the city


The Built Environment


refurbishment and conservation

On the 16th October SAVE Britiain’s Heritage hosted a lecture in the sumptuously beautiful Courtauld Institute of Art; a building which forms part of the imposing neoclassical Somerset House. Drinks were enjoyed in the highly ornate entrance hall followed by a sedate spiral ascent into the Institute’s seminar hall. The Courtauld institute - spiral stairwell Stowe House – The Courtauld Institute of Art The lecture was presented by Oliver Wainwright, architect and design critic for the Guardian. He was relaxed and engaging from the outset. The timing of the lecture proved to be auspicious, as only the previous week Liverpool had been threatened with the prospect of losing its UNESCO – World Heritage Site status. Oliver went on to show the reasons why this threat is now in the offing. Liverpool was granted this prestigious status in 2004 and since then, many truly ugly buildings have been constructed, some of which are located in highly architectural sensitive areas. The three buildings, locally nicknamed the Three Coffins are situated close to the Three Graces and dominate the area of the waterfront, drawing the eye away from the beautiful historic architecture.  The three graces Liverpool The Three Graces: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pier_Head The three disgraces - The coffins The Three Disgraces – The Coffins: http://www.thedoublenegative.co.uk/2012/10/in-defence-of-mann-island Another, soon to be constructed building, is replacing the best surviving example of a Futurist Cinema (the only one in Liverpool opened in 1912), which was situated close to the famous Lime Street Station. SAVE has worked tirelessly to save the Futurist but was unsuccessful, even though it could prove that retaining the façade would be economically viable. Combined Futurist future plans The Futurist cinema and its planned replacement The final blow to Liverpool’s fragile status of UNESCO – World Heritage Site, has been dealt with the granting of planning permission until 2042 for the development of Liverpool Waters. As with the Three Coffins, no attention seems to have been given to design, quality or appropriacy of the buildings suggested in the plan. If Liverpool loses its World Heritage Status, it will be an extremely unusual step. UNESCO status (with one exception) has only ever been removed as a result of war. A task force has been created by the Mayor of Liverpool, in an attempt to address the concerns of the awarding body. Oliver then proceeded to talk about UNESCO and World Heritage Status sites in general, giving examples of poor planning decisions made in both Bath and Edinburgh, giving further evidence that simply having the status does not protect a city from poor planning decisions.   The indirect benefits of holding UNESCO status were also discussed together with a slide showing a startling correlation between UNESCO status and an increase in tourism. Correlation between tourism and UNESCO Status Correlation between tourism and UNESCO Status:  Link to article with graph - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S026151771300099X A good humoured yet impassioned discussion followed from this thoroughly entertaining and enlightening lecture. It was generally agreed that there were no easy fixes to this global problem. However, all were in agreement that more investment was needed in improving the quality of local government and of planning departments in particular. It seems that these protection titles such as ‘Listed’ or UNESCO sites, for example, hold less and less weight. Are we in danger of slowly losing our rich architectural heritage and more primitive engineering feats? We hope that through the work of SAVE, Historic England and other similar bodies, that statuses imposed on buildings and areas are respected and preserved for our future generations. To find out more about the work of SAVE please visit their website: https://www.savebritainsheritage.org/