Canning Dock contemplation space cgi, NML, c Asif Khan Studio

Proposals for Liverpool's Canning Dock include a pedestrian bridge and contemplation space. Credit: Asif Khan Studio

GALLERY | NML unveils Liverpool Canning Dock proposals

The oldest visible part of the city’s dock system will be transformed to showcase the city’s rich maritime history under plans revealed to the public this week by National Museums Liverpool.

Designed by architect Asif Khan and artist Theaster Gates, preliminary proposals for the city’s Canning Dock include a pedestrian footbridge and an experiential installation on the South Dry Dock.

The dry docks were constructed in the 1760s, and designed for the cleaning and repair of ships. Historic stone coursing, barrel runs, mitre gates, and iron fittings remain on the site.

Created with community partners 20 Stories High, Squash, and Writing on the Wall, the proposals seek to better reveal the significance of the docks through sensitive intervention.

Liz Stewart, Canning Dock lead for National Museums Liverpool, said: “Working with local community arts organisations, we have a unique chance to really enhance people’s experience of this space.

“As well as creating an overall cohesive visitor experience, we’re determined to truly represent the profound historic significance of the site.”

The Royal Albert Dock will be linked with Canning Quayside through the introduction of a pedestrian bridge. This path will provide better connections to the surrounding International Slavery Museum, Maritime Museum, and the Museum of Liverpool.

Canning Dock NML p. NML

The South Dry Dock will house a space for contemplation and reflection. Credit: Asif Khan Studio

An area dedicated to contemplation and education will be featured on the reimagined South Dry Dock. The stone and glass structure will sit at the base of the sunken dock and will carry the same dimensions as a typical slave ship, reminiscent of the many based there 250 years ago.

The contemplation space is meant to “play host to stories of the past, life of the present, and dreams of the future, with no chance of being washed away”, according to the consultation.

Architect Khan said: “It is an idea about how complex history can be told, the spaces in which we tell it, and the power it has to bring us together.”

Artist Gates added: “The opportunity to work on the Canning Docks Project has allowed me to connect with the complexity of Liverpool and its history and to engage that history, knowing that there’s healing for the future.

“The community of creative organisations and individuals who have worked to make this project possible are the lifeblood of Liverpool.”

Canning Dock transformation overview NML c Asif Khan Studio

Illustrative plan for the proposed changes to Canning Dock. Credit: Asif Khan Studio

Notably absent from the Canning Dock consultation are Sir David Adjaye and Nigerian architect Mariam Kamara, who were originally part of the project team. Both have departed from the scheme after having worked on its early stages.

“Once the direction of the project was established, the collective agreed that Khan and Gates would take the project forward,” an NML spokesperson told Place North West.

They emphasised that Sir David Adjaye’s company Adjaye Associates was still involved in the broader Waterfront Transformation Project, a scheme that includes the Canning Dock revamp, the International Slavery Museum expansion, and the redevelopment of the Maritime Museum.

The Canning Dock project will be funded with a contribution from the government’s £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, supported by a £120,000 grant from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Race Equality Programme.

The wider design team for the project includes Plan A Consultants, Prior + Partners, The Place Bureau, Hara Design Institute, AKTII, Arup, Donald Insall Associates, and Bureau Veritas.

National Museums Liverpool is inviting the public to view the full proposals and share feedback, in person at the Museum of Liverpool or online. The consultation will run until 23 April.

A full planning application will be submitted to Liverpool City Council this summer.

Click any image to launch gallery.

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All looks a bit vague and minimalist, I think it needs more content and better access from Mann Island to the RAD.

By Liverpool4Progress

Very high quality proposal. A footbridge to Mann Island however is needed.

By LEighteen

Looks good but full connectivity between Mann Island and the area around the Pumphouse & Slavery Museum (Dock Traffic Office) should remain one of the primary goals.

By Lyver Pool

Like these ideas ,and from innovative architects too, it`s a great space that needs bringing to life, more eating places are needed as well, as Liverpool really does not make the most of it`s waterfront in the way that, say, Hamburg does.

By Anonymous

Looks awesome Liverpool is beautiful

By Anonymous

Is this really the best they can do? A box in the dock and a clunky bridge and steps? What a wasted opportunity!

By snoutsinthetrough

What a waste of a wonderful historical dock! Why not use it for it’s intended purpose and repair tall ships in it

By Anonymous

First thought: is it accessible for all? It doesn’t seem to be, which leaves me feeling that the efforts to bring much needed awareness of past discrimination (and the horrors it led to) are diluted massively by a different form of discrimination.

By Jim

Has the idea of building three bridges been dropped? I can see only two in the images. So no connection all the away from Mann Island to the Pump House? I guess this is because of budgetary concerns.

By Pierre Head

What a wasted opportunity and what a waste of such a very valuable resource namely the dry dock. Those of us whose families who have worked on the river and in the port must question the relevance of ‘the box in the dock’. Where is the new exhibition’s connection with the ports contribution to ‘the battle of the Atlantic’ and the ’emigrants the New World’. What about the ‘Cape Horner’s’ who sailed from the city? What about the shipbuilders who used to work in the dock? Rather than ‘a box in the dock’ we need more vessels in that dock for people to go on and touch and feel and be interactive with and connect with. What about a ‘tall ship’ being there or a warship in memory of the late great U boat chaser Johnny Walker? If ‘the box in the dock’ was part of an art galleries exhibition I would say ‘nice exhibit’ and move on. It is however meant to be a maritime museum.

By Brendan R

For me significantly underwhelming . The waterfront is one of the cities best assets is this the best use of the space? any chance of more interesting and tourist friendly features such as a decommissioned ship built at Cammell Laird ? Look how successful HMS Belfast is in London. Current proposals lack the quality of the setting and space.

By Paul M - Woolton

Not a fan

By Anonymous

what on earth is this, do we have too much money floating about or something? Complete waste

By mike

Yes in an ideal world it would be great to have an impressive historic ship in one of the graving docks but even though these docks have been available for many years no appropriate vessel has emerged. Anyway I like the idea of being able to explore into the depths of a graving dock and feel the atmosphere and enormity of the place, in the meantime if ever a large, intersting historic vessel became available it could be stationed in the 2nd dock , where the Pilot Vessel now is, and that could be moved elsewhere.

By Anonymous

money for this but not a single working fountain in the city.

By Anonymous

Overall the proposals look good as a way to link the various NML sites together. Disabled access looks like it has not currently been considered very highly in the design process.

By Ashtoncol

Re: A previous comment about suitable vessels not being available to be put in the dry dock. A quick look back would see the city failed to save the ‘historic warships collection’ which was based in Birkenhead docks from being broken up in more ways than one. What about the U boat chaser ‘Whimbrel’ which was last heard of languishing in a port in Egypt? What about the Bar lightship ‘the Planet’ which is now in Gloucester Docks? Any of these vessels would have really added to the vitality of the museum experience. Many other ports have large vessels as exhibits so why can’t we ‘the Gateway to the Atlantic’ have at least one or two? With regard to a land based facility surely some of the funding for the NML’s new attraction could have been put into an ‘Ellis Island New York’ style attraction so that people from far and wide could trace their ancestors voyage to the new world’s of the Americas and Australia and New Zealand. The proposals put forward are really a totally wasted and lost opportunity to bring more life and people to the area around the Maritime Museum and waterfront.

By Brendan R

I think that the design as an artefact with strong vernacular african themes is a bold move that deserves merit, whether or success will be in its delivery. I hope it succeeds…

By Kev Horton

Some interesting proposals. But does not make sense in terms of pedestrian movement. Footbridge to Mann Island is essential and also a crossing over Strand, to link the existing footbridge to the City Centre.

By Urban Vision Enterprise CIC

Re. Previous comments on preserved ships, especially with the Battle of the Atlantic not having a British memorial ship. ex HMS Whimbrel was designated years ago to be brought to these docks. The most important British Port for Atlantic Convoys and their Escort Groups. Halifax in Canada has its memorial ship HMCS Sackville. As far as I am aware Whimbrel still exists in Alexandria Naval Dockyard, Egypt. Would be an enormous plus for visitors with Western Approaches, U534, Captain Walker’s memorial etc. Belfast has done it in the Titanic Quarter with HMS Caroline from the Battle of Jutland in 1915. Just as practical to do in Liverpool, obviously needing a lot of finance though.

By Andy R

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