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Liverpool University School of Architecture

The design is a winner of a three-stage invited international design competition that "aimed to redefine the nature of architectural education and to challenge the current preconceptions of architectural design of the 21st century, imagining a building respectful of tradition, but ambitious enough to anticipate the architecture to come". The School was interested in the pedagogic potential of the competition and the highly inclusive process involved staff and students from the outset. The jury, which included Maria Balshaw, Kenneth Frampton (chair), Juhani Pallasmaa and Michael Wilford, was unanimous in their selection of the winner.

The current school currently comprises two buildings: the Georgian terrace and the 1930s Leverhulme building designed by Charles Reilly with subsequent works carried out in 1980s by King and McAllister. The brief recognised the "lack of cohesion among the parts, a missing public core and social spaces" and was looking for a "meaningful reorganisation" but stressed the need to retain all the existing fabric, important in representing the history of the School. The contemporary extension, a "flagship project", needs to represent the School of Architecture of the future.

Leverhulme Building, Abercromby Square, Liverpool L69 7ZN
Liverpool University
53°24'13.7"N, 2°57'55.3"W
  • GA International 2022: School of Architecture, University of Liverpool
    Tokyo, Japan, 23 July - 19 September

We proposed to combine the Georgian houses with both phases of their extensions and the new building into a legible composite entity. We want to add to the narrative, starting from the baseline of the Georgian houses on Abercromby Square, relating to the scale of Reilly’s 1930s Leverhulme building, respecting its material presence and responding to the rooflit section of the extension added in the 1980s. We see the resultant assemblage of new build and refurbishment as an enhancement to the functionality of the entire complex, a logical re-arrangement of interdependent parts.

The new building belongs to its place. Our strategy emerged from analysis of the site conditions, from the history of the school, from a desire to embody the project aspirations; we started from the ground up.

Everything begins with the plan. The extension opens outwards, following the line of Hope Street and the angled geometry of the Lutyens / Gibberd cathedral. A brick-paved forecourt reaches out into the public realm of the campus.

The new building turns the corner, presenting an open face to the central green space of the University Masterplan. It makes a public entrance on the main street of the campus. It expresses the dynamic identity of the School. Previously disconnected parts have been stitched together to make a meaningful whole.

This scheme was highly valued for the way in which it not only rationally reorganised the available space in both the original Georgian Terrace and the Leverhulme building but also established a new head building, which was both subtly inflected towards the new park and the existing cathedral.

It is also dynamically articulated, orchestrating a series of mezzanine studio spaces volumetrically linked to the generous café, and the exhibition spaces situated at grade. New elevators are strategically located between each historic part of the complex.

The jurors appreciated the didactically tectonic use of the timber folded plate construction, partially inspired by the geometry of the cathedral.

The three parts in which the school is organised convey a narrative of architectural history and the newest part appropriately celebrates space, structure and light. The triangulated geometry also connects the building with the cathedral. The skew lines activate the pedestrian views along the street.

Judges' comments: Kenneth Frampton (chair)

Space, Character and Atmosphere

We started from the inside out: a concrete table below supports the timber-trussed loft-space studios above. Studios are arranged in an open-plan under 30m span roof trusses, with solar-shaded daylighting and views out over the campus.

The entry level is brick-floored gathering hall, its ribbed slab supported on haunch-headed columns. The Ground Floor of the new extension is a public forum open to all. It includes exhibition space to display the work of the School, seminar and social spaces, a café and a stepped landscape for lunchtime lectures.

We combined Georgian houses, Leverhulme and new building into a legible composite entity. The circulation strategy is clarified, with easy connection through all floor levels. Overlapping adjacencies are provoked between interlocking spaces. Thresholds are extended to measure moments of transition between new and old. Walls are intended for pin-ups. Stairs and landings are social spaces. Windows focus on views to the cathedral and across the campus. The building is designed to be ready for work, to be adaptable to change and to last a long time.

A wedge-shaped space splices the new extension into the Leverhulme. Machine rooms and workshops open under a canopy, bringing construction experiments out to a work-yard. Wide stairs from the Georgian staircases are reinstated. Relocation of the lift and fire stair clarifies the diagram. Zones of threshold between buildings are places of connection for meeting, relaxation and display. The First Floor plan unites studio activities between new and old. The scheme reinforces the central position of the multi-level Stirling Gallery in the life of the school. The Second Floor plan extends new into old.


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