Down to the River

The competition to find a design team for NML's Waterfront Transformation in Liverpool has broken the mould....

The quayside at Liverpool has provided the perfect setting for many creative events over the years – from giant puppets promenading across the docks to the three Cunard ships Queen Victoria, Elizabeth, and Mary 2 sailing up the Mersey. And so, it did again in Mid-July when NML show-cased the six installations for its Waterfront competition there: installations created by the six teams that had been shortlisted from a starting line up of 35 teams. To find out more do look at the competition page.

The sun shone, the sky was blue, and the waterside Liverpool Museum provided an idyllic backdrop for the three-day event. Open from 10am to 9pm during the weekend of the 16th to 18th July the installations, set out across the Canning Dock, were visited by the Jury, Technical and Community Panels and by the people of Liverpool.

  • Team Arup. Photo credit: @photogwsmith

Committed to creating a more equitable and sustainable society NML was determined from the outset to make this competition inclusive and give the public an opportunity to be involved in the process.

  • Team Asif Khan. Photo credit: @photogwsmith

The amazing waterfront location and currently empty site provided the perfect opportunity for NML and Colander to be creative in the way it structured the second stage of the competition. They injected a new energy into the process by inviting the teams to produce a 3-D construction as part of their second stage submission. Although not looking for a specific design for the waterfront NML needed to understand the design approach and philosophy of each team, and how each would approach the challenges of this project.

  • Team BIG. Photo credit: @photogwsmith

It was decided that the shortlisted teams should each be asked to create a temporary outdoor installation, no higher than 2.5metres and no larger than 8x8 metres, to demonstrate their design flair and explore their ability to engage with the client, stakeholders, and the local community. Each team received £5,000 to cover materials and out of pocket expenses. Once the installations had been completed the Jury, Technical and Community Panels, and the public were invited to look around them and to talk to the teams.

  • Team DSDHA. Photo credit: @photogwsmith

For the Jury and other panel members the event provided a great interface for conversations and for design ideas to be shared. For panel members unfamiliar or new to the process of design competitions the inclusion of this ‘built’ element was appreciated, helping by adding a component to which they could relate more easily. Each member of the Jury came to this outdoor event with a slightly different agenda depending on their own specialist interests, but all went away happy that the event had helped them to understand each team’s ethos and approach to this project.

  • Team OMMX. Photo credit: @photogwsmith

For the public it offered a great opportunity to look at the installations, meet the teams, enjoy the waterside atmosphere and to have the chance to comment on the work and to feedback their views to NML. Visitors were able to leave comments both in postal boxes on the site and electronically.

  • Team ShedKM. Photo credit: @photogwsmith

The event was a huge success with hundreds of people visiting the dockside to engage with the installations and others sharing their comments with the teams and on social media, using the hashtag: #NMLWaterfront.

The client is happy, and we hope the public appetite and interest in the project will continue. There is every reason to be positive!