RIBA North opens in Liverpool

A new architecture centre for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) opened in Liverpool on 17 June.

The centre, RIBA North, is designed by Matt Brook of Broadway Malyan, the practice behind the wider Mann Island development on the city’s waterfront. The two-storey, 1,350 m² space is the RIBA’ first centre for architecture outside of London.

RIBA President Jane Duncan commented:

“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.”

According to the architects’ website, the centre boasts double-height entrance lobby, thick granite stairwell and landings and a cafe and shop area, with a mezzanine level above and a red corian “spine wall”.

The project benefitted from a £67,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which 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 merchandize—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.