Liverpool museum hunts for waterfront masterplanner

National Museums Liverpool is looking to appoint a masterplanner as it seeks to improve its holdings in the city’s maritime quarter into an “outstanding visitor destination”.

NML holds eight buildings within the waterfront portfolio, with the main attractions including the Museum of Liverpool and the Mersey Maritime Museum. The organisation is looking for ideas on the best ways to bring into use the smaller buildings on site, along with uses for the two dry docks within the estate, and present the whole area more effectively.

Mairi Johnson, estates director of NML, told Place North West: “What we’re asking for at this stage is a brief rather than a design – this stage is about writing a recipe, rather than baking the cake.”

The masterplan will focus on upgrading public realm across the area, creating more usage out of its under-utilised or disused holdings, and potentially modifying existing museums. Uses that could come forward include restaurants, retail and event and exhibition space, as NML looks to further its ability to sustain itself.

Assets include Pilotage, Great Western Railway Building, the listed Canning Graving docks, Piermaster’s House, Piermaster’s Office, the Cooperage and Mermaid House, while suggestions for modifications to Mersey Maritime Museum and the Museum of Liverpool could also be included, along with the long-standing ambition to extend the International Slavery Museum into Martin Luther King House. Some small-scale new-build may be involved in the project.

An open day was held yesterday, at which interested parties were shown around the site, with around 40 representatives attending. The deadline for submissions at this stage is 1 April, with NML looking to appoint and start working with their chosen team by May.

Johnson told Place: “We’ve got a lot of information already, and have done a lot of thinking about this, so can provide a lot of support – but this is the point where we need an external voice.”

The initial masterplanning contract will be worth up to £80,000 and is expected to underpin a 10-year series of works at a site that sits at the heart of Liverpool’s Unesco World Heritage site, taking in the Royal Albert Dock Liverpool on one side and the Pier Head and Mann Island on the other.

NML’s brief says: “‘The aim of the project is to analyse what makes a successful visitor attraction, the opportunities offered by the site and existing venues, and to use the conclusions to drive development.

“As such, the consultancy team may not necessarily be architect-led, however, they must possess the broad range of skills to address the brief. Expertise is required in the design of hospitality, retail, exhibition, events, work and play spaces.”

Johnson added: “The masterplan is an ambitious undertaking that will dramatically change the visitor experience when it is complete. Liverpool’s waterfront is not only a beautiful space but also one of huge historic significance to the city, the wider region and the rest of the UK.

“We’re expecting this tender process to attract really creative thinkers and exciting plans, inspired by the beauty and potential of the area. We hope to see interesting ways in which we can open up the quaysides, currently not accessible to the public, with a strong, connected vision for how these spaces could be used to complement the amazing stories we tell in the nearby museums.”

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The Pilotage Building offers huge opportunities for the visitor experience and raising the profile of National Museums Liverpool. It sits between the two main sites right at the water’s edge. Special exhibitions plus a really good café with outside seating would go down really well here. NML could increase their revenue hugely on this with imagination as there aren’t many spaces so close to the river. The Pumphouse on Canning Dock has similar appeal but this could be much better!

By Roscoe

I agree its such a fabulous place – and you go on holiday and are happy to sit and enjoy places similar – when we don’t appreciate what we have on our doorstep. The Albert Dock could be so much more. And the pumphouse could be so much better.

By Lizzy Baggot

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