The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) opens a new national architecture centre, RIBA North, on 17 June on the Liverpool Waterfront. RIBA North, designed by Broadway Malyan, is a place for everyone to discover more about architecture with exhibitions, talks and tours as well as a café and shop.
To celebrate the opening, an immersive major display called Un-veiled by KHBT Architects welcomes visitors in the winter garden between the Mann Island buildings. The public can walk through multiple layers of red mesh, a typical building site material covering scaffolding, that are cut in the shape of iconic buildings of cities of the‘Northern Powerhouse’ including The Sage in Gateshead, Imperial War Museum North, Liverpool Catholic Cathedral and York Minster. Furthermore guests can join free architectural city tours and a workshop to create architectural hats inspired by the 1931 Beaux Arts Ball after which participants are encouraged to present their creations in a ‘hat walk’.
At the heart of RIBA North is the City Gallery, a space for visitors to learn more about Liverpool’s architectural past present and future, as well as the processes involved in urban development and the evolution of the built environment. The gallery includes the Digital City Model, an interactive 3D model which recounts stories about Liverpool and the surround area. It is also an extraordinary professional tool, which can be used by developers, architects and planners to host public consultations, anticipate the impact of future development, and encourage the best design approaches.
Alongside this permanent display, RIBA North is hosting a bold programme of temporary exhibitions and offering the opportunity to view the historic RIBA Collections, the nation’s richest resource of architecture drawings, photographs and prints, dating from the late 15th century to present day.
The opening exhibition, ‘Liverpool(e): Mover, Shaker, Architectural Risk-Taker’, praises Liverpool’s long, often maverick, history of architectural ambition, its willingness to take risks and consider audacious schemes—a trait which has ultimately resulted in the dramatic and celebrated skyline we see today.
Thanks to the National Lottery players, a £67,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) enabled 30 drawings, models and watercolours from the RIBA Collections, many of which have never been on display before, to be restored to feature in the opening exhibition. They include extraordinary un-built proposals for the city’s Anglican Cathedral by Sir Charles Nicholson and Philip Webb; a radical scheme, by Sir Denys Lasdun from the 1959 for the Catholic Cathedral site and a bold vision for a new skyline by Graeme Shankland from the 1960s after two thirds of the city’s buildings were declared to be obsolete. Visitors are able to watch a newly commissioned film which reflects on the buildings which were realised, and considers how the city may evolve if it embraces its historic architectural ambition. The film includes interviews with Joseph Sharples (author of the Liverpool Pevsner City Guide), Michael Wilford (Stirling Wilford Architects), Natalia Maximova (Sheppard Robson) and Ian Richie (Ian Richie Architects).
In addition to the exhibitions, the centre will also be host to a permanent shop. Curated by stylist Katie Patrick, the retail space will feature products that range from home and fashion accessories to office merchandise—with a special focus on the best Northern designers to date. The products include ceramics by Sam Andrew and Joe Hartley; wooden kitchen accessories by Alex Devol from Wooden & Woven; bowls and beakers by designer Sue Pryke; blankets by textile design by Heather Shields; children cutlery by David Mellor; and leather bags by Ruth Pullan.
Throughout the year, RIBA North will run a programme of both public and professional events, bringing together everyone with an interest in architecture to promote and share knowledge about the benefits of good design. Families are welcome, as children can discover their inner architect by throwing themselves into fun and colourful construction at the on-site Lego city.
Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said:
“I am delighted that the RIBA has chosen Liverpool as the location for its new national architectural centre. RIBA North will be in good company on our prestigious UNESCO World Heritage waterfront, alongside the Albert Dock and the three Graces, which since Liverpool City Council moved into the Cunard Building has come alive with new tenants and staff.
“We’re proud of our heritage in the city, which is why we have focussed on bringing so much of it back to life, and I have high hopes that the RIBA’s presence in the city will increase opportunities to work with other cities across the Northern Powerhouse. They will bring new tools and innovations , like the RIBA North digital city model to improve planning and engage with communities and industry about developing our cities in a way that we will be proud of in the future.”
Jane Duncan, RIBA President, said:
“We are delighted to open RIBA North, a new national architecture centre for the UK, this summer. We are particularly proud to strengthen our cultural and creative offering in the north of England, and to enable many more people to explore and understand the enormous impact that architecture and design has on all our lives.
At RIBA North, we have a building with museum conditions which will offer a magnificent opportunity to view RIBA’s world-renowned historic collections showing hundreds of years of the UK’s extraordinary architectural history.
We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund which has provided a grant for the opening exhibition, enabling us to restore 30 Liverpool items from our collections, which will be on public display for the first time. RIBA North would also not be possible without the generous and ongoing support from Broadway Malyan.”