How buildings learn: Evolving The Ev

In which views are exchanged and an idea is had.

For the future.

For the future.

I’ve written before on here about one of my favourite architecture books ‘How buildings learn: What happens after they’re built’ by Stewart Brand. And I’ve been talking about it this week. Talking about it in our new Everyman with Artistic Director Gemma Bodinetz and Executive Director Deborah Aydon.280px-how_buildings_learn_stewart_brand_book_cover

They asked me if I’d come and talk to them after I’d written a frankly critical post about the new building called ‘Great Expectations’ on the very evening when it had won the RIBA Sterling Award for the best new building of the year. Contrary, like.

My criticisms weren’t aimed at the building as a whole but at what I see as its slow start so far as a natural gathering place for the people of the city. Along the way I also had some specific criticisms of the food and the downstairs Bistro. Not everyone agreed with me, on here or on Twitter, but enough feelings were strongly expressed to set the scene for a lively discussion, as we sat down to talk about The Everyman and its future.

We met in the Bistro, naturally. In the cosy corner by the fire.

We met in the Bistro, naturally. In the cosy corner by the fire.

Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon.

Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon.

Gemma and Deborah have been at The Ev for eleven years now and ‘passionate’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe how they feel about the place’s new home. Continue reading

It’s Liverpool, in 1943

war-damageWe are nearly four years into the second Great War of the century. Many thousands are dead and large areas of all sides cities and docklands are in ruins. Already though, thoughts here are turning to the longed for ‘afterwards.’ The Beveridge Report has been published the previous December, enthralling hundreds of thousands at home and at the front with plans for making a better world. A world that will deal with the ‘Five great evils’ of squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease by, amongst other things, creating a National Health Service. And wartime Education Minister Rab Butler will soon be bringing his Education Act to Parliament. Creating a new education system for all and raising the school leaving age to fifteen.

Well Joe Hughes, our guide to wartime Liverpool today, has avoided that and left school at fourteen. Largely because his family needs the income. Born in Chisenhale Street, just off Vauxhall Road in 1928, and now living in Owen House in Kirkdale, close to the North Docks, Joe is in Liverpool to start his second full-time job.

Having begun as a gas-welder close to home Joe has now managed, at just fifteen, to get his first office job. At Exchange Flags, just behind the Town Hall. Joe is starting as an Office Boy, running errands for the Liverpool Exchange Company.

Joe Hughes is my Dad. And today we are walking round wartime Liverpool together. Continue reading

Liverpool essentials: TJ’s and Abakhan

TJ's in the mid 1990s, with pigeons.

TJ’s in the mid 1990s, with pigeons.

Two major Liverpool institutions in one day? Yes, it can be done. We’ll be visiting a few others before the day’s out too, so let’s go!

This is what me and Sarah call a ‘Saturday Ramble’ these days. A bit like the Friday Walks, but at some point Sarah usually does one of her ‘shopping exhibitions’ – as she will today. These rambles happen to give Sarah a deliberate day off from her funeral work. A lightly planned ramble where we go where our feet take us.

Beginning just off London Road.

Beginning just off London Road.

At Sarah's beloved Abakhan.

At Sarah’s beloved Abakhan.

Continue reading

Great Expectations

Great Expectations06The news got through to me sideways, as news sometimes will. Mid-evening a friend, David Lloyd of SevenStreets and Bitten magazine asked if he could use one of my Greatie photos from last weekend. ‘Of course’ I’d agreed. And checked back a couple of hours later to see what he’d wanted it for.

To find he’d written a thoughtful article about our city of contrasts, calling it A Tale of Two Cities.

“Joe Anderson and the council will, we have no doubt, be delighted at the Everyman’s triumph (although they can take none of the credit) – but they should be very wary of the Everyman ever staging A Tale Of Two Cities. Because, when it does, it would only need to glance in the direction of Great Homer Street to see a city the council’s washed its hands of. A city of lost opportunities. Fudge and compromise, of timidity and duplicity.

And, in an equal and opposite way to the Everyman, this matters too. Because we are both these cities at once. And wouldn’t you think someone in Dale Street would notice the disconnect? Would stop and say, hey, maybe there are people outside Planning and Regeneration would could, actually, do things better, if we let them?

Stirling knows: you don’t need £27m to make a building beautiful, resonant and fit for purpose. That’s why it has a special category for buildings under £1million. So why do we fail to see the potential in every corner of the city? Why does our selective blindness trip us up time and again? Why is Great Homer Street Market’s £2million new home akin to a Syrian refugee camp? Is that what we deserve too?”

Which is how the news sneaked in to me sideways. Amidst worries that the new Greatie is by no means all that it could be, is the news that our new Everyman has won – something.

Yes, we’ve won the Stirling Prize. The nation’s major architectural prize for the best new building of the year. Being naturally and helplessly in love with all things Liverpool this made me want to run out of the front door and dance in the street. It being not as often as it should be that the nation turns its eyes towards us and says ‘You’re definitely the best’ at, well, anything.

But before I got my shoes on I paused and had my own Dickens moment. A moment of reflecting on Great Expectations. The Great Expectations of March 1st this year. Continue reading

Still Greatie?

Greatie01Today Liverpool’s oldest and largest street market moved into its new home. So I decided to go on a circular walk which would include a housewarming visit to the new Greatie.

Getting off the 76 bus in London Road by TJ's.

Getting off the 76 bus in London Road by TJ’s.

Encountering the first street market of the day.

Encountering the first street market of the day.

Continue reading

Wondrous Day

And so, on 9th October 2014 it all came together, and ‘the chink of light’ we spoke about four springtimes ago shone brightly on Granby 4 Streets as history turned up and witnessed the community of the place, at long last, take a formal stake in the future. Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust is launched with ‘Our First 10 Homes’ project.

The day begins quietly on Cairns Street, Liverpool 8.

The day begins quietly on Cairns Street, Liverpool 8.

Liverpool Mutual Homes are already on site on one side of the street.

People begin to gather.

People begin to gather.

Interviews begin to happen.

Interviews begin to happen.

Here is Erika Rushton of Plus Dane, also on site elsewhere in the 4 Streets. Erika is Chair of the Community Land Trust. Continue reading

Mr Roscoe’s Garden

Here at a sense of place we’re big appreciators of William Roscoe and all he did for the City of Liverpool and, well, for humanity generally. Helping to get the Transatlantic Slave Trade stopped, at considerable physical and financial risk to himself was no mean feat after all.

Mount Pleasant, where William Roscoe was born, 1753.

Mount Pleasant, where William Roscoe was born, 1753.

We followed his life, interests and achievements in two linked blog posts, early on in ‘It’s Liverpool in 1775′ and later in ‘It’s Liverpool in 1820′. But paid scant attention to his horticultural history, beyond his being born in a market garden on Mount Pleasant. Well today Sarah Horton puts that right with the tale of ‘Mr Roscoe’s Garden’ – its history, its importance and what we could all be doing now to save its legacy for future generations. Here’s Sarah.

For a long time, in fact, for several years, I’ve been in possession of a very attractive leaflet, titled ‘Liverpool’s Botanic Collection’. This is what it looks like:

Liv Bot leaflet

It describes a veritable cornucopia of botanical delights, saying they are displayed in the ‘Glass Houses of The Walled Garden at Croxteth Hall and Country Park’. On the back of the leaflet is a map of Liverpool’s first Botanic Garden, founded in 1802 by William Roscoe. Plus a sketch of some very grand glasshouses.

Me and Ronnie had stumbled across the walled garden at Croxteth Hall early this year on a wet January afternoon on one of our rambles, and it certainly didn’t look anything like the exotic bounty illustrated on the leaflet. It was closed too. A dog walker told me he thought it wasn’t open anymore.

The Walled Garden at Croxteth Hall.

January 2014, The Walled Garden at Croxteth Hall.

So it’s something that’s long bothered me.  Just where are these botanic delights illustrated in the leaflet, which sound so exotic and exciting –  The 3/4 Span House, The Teak House, The Metal House and The Cedar House? And does Mr Roscoe’s garden still exist? Continue reading