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

Liverpool gives £15m Canning Dock revival go-ahead

Designed by architect Asif Khan and artist Theaster Gates, the scheme aims to transform the oldest visible part of the city’s dock system into a space for education, contemplation, and recreation.

National Museums Liverpool’s £15m redevelopment of Canning Quaysides and Dry Docks would cover an area of 194,000 sq ft previously used for repairing ships.

The project would consist of four main elements aimed at enhancing the visitor experience: improvements to the quayside, the installation of a footbridge to improve connectivity, new access to the south dry dock, and a new contemplation space.

The contemplation space will provide somewhere for visitors to reflect on the history of the dock and the role it played in the slave trade, according to NML.

The stone and glass structure will sit at the base of the sunken south graving dock and carry the same dimensions as a typical slave ship.

As part of the design process, Asif Khan Studio has been working with community partners 20 Stories High, Squash, Writing on the Wall, and Liverpool Black History Research Group.

Canning Dock South Dry Dock night cgi, NML, c Asif Khan Studio

Night-time view of the South Dry Dock. Credit: Asif Khan Studio

“I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to help reach this milestone in the project,” Khan said.

“[Planning approval] is a giant step toward welcoming people to experience the transformative power of this site and its stories.”

Theaster Gates added that he was “heartened” by Liverpool’s willingness to “grapple with its complex history and make space for the unfortunate truth of violence against other people”.

Liz Stewart, head of Museum of Liverpool, described the project as “transformational”.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Working with local community arts organisations, we have a unique chance to really enhance people’s experience of this space,” she said.

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

Stewart added: “The dry docks and quaysides have such a powerful heritage narrative, and throughout the process of co-production, we’ve ensured the feedback and ideas coming directly from our communities, is integrated into the designs.”

£10m of the £15m required to deliver the project was provided through the government’s Levelling Up Fund.

Work is due to begin this autumn, according to NML.

Prior+Partners is the scheme’s planning consultant. The project team also includes Plan A Consultants, The Place Bureau, Hara Design Institute, AKTII, Arup, Donald Insall Associates, and Bureau Veritas.

To learn more about the development, search for application number 23F/2711 on Liverpool City Council’s planning portal.

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A huge missed opportunity. Along with the proposed and needless desecration of the Dock Traffic Office, yet further evidence that the people running NML are not fit custodians of our most precious built assets.

By More Anonymous than the others

Sadly i think this is a total waste of a significant sum and a lost opportunity. Some of the quotes within the article are so PC . I don’t feel the need to grapple with complex history . Given its a Maritime Museum a ship built at Lairds would perhaps have been more interesting for the general public and tourists ? I think NML have lost sight of what most people want when visiting , they certainly don’t want to be lectured or feel the need to apologise . Get back to basics please and leave politics to others.

By Paul

Not sure about this, we already have a museum dedicated to Slavery.
We did not invent slavery, it was something we inherited from other ports.
Something more connected with the ports contribution to emigration and trade and the lives of the people who travelled through it to new lands, yes mention the slave connection but nearly every city in the UK benefitted from this inhuman trade from cotton towns to manufacturing towns who’s goods were traded for the slaves

Many individuals and companies also benefitted by purchasing slaves and hiring them out to the plantation owners.

By Liverpolitis

It is a design response that is convenient narrative to various contemporaneous narratives that pervade society. The truth is much more nuanced, that people Liverpool did much to advance cultural change….I’m not just thinking of the anti-slave movement, but also the local work of E.D Morell and the exploitation of the Congo or even the arrival of the american R&B and soul to these shores etc….

By Anonymous

A maritime museum with now even less, if any boats in the vicinity which is really poor. This should have been on opportunity to present the actual history and use of the actual dock itself something along the lines of what was done with the cutty sark. The ‘reflection box’ could have been easily accommodated elsewhere on the dock if wanted.

By L17

A place for contemplation! Already offered in churches and public libraries (closed by Tories as waste of taxpayers money). These docks should hold museum ships. One millions pounds consulting feee please.

By Anonymous

It’s all part of the usual woke narrative now. I wonder how much tax payer money will be pumped in to keep it alive.

By Anonymous

Years ago there where ships and a sub/Uboat you could go on in these docks, as others have said I do think they are not considering the maritime location and incorporate ships and a typical dock side environment for people to experience and get a better idea of how the dock system worked.

By GetItBuilt!

What about that beautiful Welsh built church on Princess Avenue that needs restoring

By Christ is king

I find this a fairly pointless structure and poor use of what is an amazing historic space. Just seems to be doing something for the sake of it, rather than doing something more vital. There’s a lack of ambition with the proposal as well, in my view.

By Mike

Utterly ridiculous scheme. The Merseyside Maritime Museum was set up to celebrate what was once one of the world’s most significant maritime cities (and is still a major port), and is now apparently run by people who couldn’t care less, or have ridden here from elsewhere on their own hobbyhorses. The Martitme Museum now won’t be able to put historic ships in the historic dry dock it owns, which is still entirely fit for purpose, but won’t be once it’s messed around with. If the contemplation space is needed, it could be placed anywhere, although perhaps with less chance ofna Turner Prize nomination, which seems to be the driving force here.

By Captain Johnny Walker

I am very much attracted by seeing this wonderful, historic, graving dock cleaned up and be able to venture inside it. The effect of the lighting will be stunning and something to behold. However I agree with others on here that we need some kind of historic ship in these docks which will prove an equally popular attraction.

By Anonymous

Think it might be better fixing the potholes

By Anonymous

L17 and the vast majority of sensible contributors are so spot on. A maritime Museum with no ships , especially given Cammell Laird ‘s is opposite. This is woke nonsense. What a wasted opportunity. I suspect they wont be keen to share visitor numbers once completed. The obsession with the slave trade needs to stop , a reset is required along with non PC trustees .

By Paul M - Woolton

The museum keeps telling the staff that they have no money to pay the lowest paid £1500 each as a cost of living rise but had £15 million to do up canning dock. Pay your staff what was agreed by government.

By Anonymous

How utterly depressing for Liverpool once again, other places get arenas and skyscrapers and we get this.

By Anonymous

That would be a handsome structure… at ground level. And that drydock would be excellent for holding, oh I don’t know, a ship? If the slavery story is the angle they want to take why not reconstruct a slave ship. They destroyed one of their ships and described it thus “The deconstruction of De Wadden is the final stage in a long period of careful research”. Total double speak. That’s like going to hospital and finding out you’re going to be used for anatomy practice.

By H

Sad, shocking scheme, a huge waste of scarce funds which could be much better used elsewhere. Where are the ships, boats and models? Where is the plan to display these special items in the museum collections and make them properly accessible at long last? They are in the wrong hands and wasted otherwise. Come up with a better plan to use this amazing dock rather than pretend it is something it is not.

By Anonymous

I do hope NML read and take note of the comments that have been posted. We have a slavery museum. This is a dock and should hold a fitting maritime exhibit worthy of a maritime museum. Whatever happened about plans to bring the Alabama back to Liverpool ? The museum needs a noteable maritime exhibit and this is the perfect place. Isn’t there a Mersey ferry rotting away on the banks of the Thames ? Fill the dock and return her as a floating exhibit. A rethink is needed here. So out of touch and inappropriate. Quite shocked by this decision. A waste of good space and a waste of money.

By Stephen Davis.

What a complete and utter waste of money! I have aired my views before about these plans and they very much echoed those given by almost all the contributors. The maritime museum has totally lost its way and is now being totally marginalised by people who clearly have absolutely no understanding as to what a maritime museum should be about. It should be about ships and the port and the people who worked in it and yes the people who sailed to and from our famous port in their hundreds of thousands. If you want a contemplation space we have two world class cathedrals, one of which overlooks the Mersey and we have the ‘seaman’s church of ‘Our Lady and St Nicholas’ on the Strand. The docks both we and dry should be for ships and yes even on a ship of whatever size those of us that have been to sea will have always found a quiet place on board to contemplate at times. These plans are just a complete waste of money and a waste of spaces that could be used to enhance the maritime museum experience in a better and more meaningful and yes an educational way.

By Brendan R

Looks decent why are people moaning people up the road mentioning we get skyscrapers? Liverpool is about to build decent ones that enhance our city and our waterfront .
We still look better.

By Anonymous

If, as many on here are requesting, they pull these plans, they will lose the funding as it won’t be re-allocated.

By Anonymous

Re. Anon at 2.18pm. If they pulled the plans – vanishingly unlikely as we are talking about people who always know best here – then the funding wouldn’t be needed. “It may be rubbish, but the government is paying for it” isn’t a very good argument for messing up an important heritage asset, particularly given how often schemes like this run over budget.

By Edmund Gardner

As if anyone in Manchester is bothered about looks. It’s too busy building it’s own economy, and hats off to them.

By Anonymous

Three of the aims of the project around improving access and connectivity are admirable as much of the canning dock acts as a void between the amazing pier head and royal Albert Dock, however, the contemplation cube is an absolute folly. A complete and utter waste of money. If you’re going to the trouble of allowing people to get to the base of the dry dock to experience the sense of space and scale…then allow them to contemplate that! Why stick an ugly empty box in there to ruin the experience?
There are a myriad of maritime stories to tell about Liverpool, the American Civil War links for one and this area deserves much much better. A real attraction here, such as the Cutty Sark would not only act as a visual icon but could drive so much footfall and visitor numbers.
NML and LCC Please reconsider!

By John laird

10 million has been given by the levelling up fund and if not used, will go to another proposal in another town or city. While I wholeheartedly agree that the lack of ships/boats in the docks that are connected to the museum and are actual exhibits is shocking, I also see the value in this. Especially beingvable to get down into the graving dock. Bring able to do that and look up from where ship repairers would have done in the past will be special. The slavery angle is also apt and the fact that Liverpool is doing what it is doing what it is doing around the topic when other cities aroundvthe country stay quiet and pretend they had nothing to do with slavery is kudos to Liverpool.
Not building this will not result in skyscrapers, nor will it result in potholes being fixed. It will leave the graving docks empty, the sides covered in weeds and that whole quayside area wasted for years to come. Building it attracts tourists, makes use of the space, provides new space for people in the city and shows that Liverpool cares. A rebuilt slave ship would be an amazing exhibit to have moored up outside the maritime, as would a Mersey flat, the Royal Iris and a ww2 ship from the battle of the Atlantic.

By Anonymous

The whole concept is embarrassing for Liverpool from start to finish. The only way they’d fill a ‘zone of contemplation’ is if they put a Greggs in it.

By Jilly

A quick plea to Peel who are behind the Liverpool Waters development in the north end of our fine city. Can you show a bit of philanthropy and give the city the maritime museum it truly deserves… the historic north docks! There is just so much scope up there and you still have the Clarence dry docks to put some major exhibits in. History wise Liverpool Waters has it in abundance including the tobacco warehouse and the Victoria Tower. Peel, please put your hands in your pockets and give the city a real maritime museum that is worthy of our fine city and not the one that as my school report once said ‘could do better!’ in relation to my school work.

By Brendan R

@ Jilly, there’ll be no need for a Gregg’s as the old Pilotage Building , near the Canning Dock River Entrance, will be refurbished as a restaurant and cafe, and I can see it being very popular.

By Anonymous

Ha ha yes Greggs is always popular but it’s the ‘contemplation’ bit I think the customers might have a problem with 😅

By Anonymous

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