Albert Dock Interpro 4 (Urban design and Landscape)
Four different approaches to dockside regeneration
Thoughtful landscaping is an integral part of any successful urban regeneration project. But urban designers need to be able to respond to continual change and the needs of different users over time.
These were the key messages at the fourth Albert Dock Interpro event, which was held on 23rd March 2018 at RIBA North in Liverpool. Hosted by the Urban Design Group and the Landscape Institute, four urban designers shared their experiences of working on waterfront regeneration projects, two in Britain and two in Sweden.
What the projects had in common was the challenge not just of reinvigorating and repopulating old dockside areas, but also of reconnecting them back to their city centres.
Starting close to home, Pete Swift, managing partner at Planit-IE, talked about the ongoing public realm work his company has been involved in with Gower Street Estates, owner of Liverpool’s Albert Dock.
Albert Dock has changed immeasurably from the despairing times of the 1980s, as depicted in the TV series Boys from the Blackstuff, to Liverpool’s main tourist attraction, a city rated as third best in the UK by Tripadvisor, behind only London and Edinburgh, pointed out the event’s chair Stephen Gleave, senior director at Turley and honorary visiting professor at The University of Liverpool.
But that change has been gradual, and Swift advocated a measured approach to rebalancing Albert Dock’s relationship to the city. Evolution, not revolution, is best, he said. Creating a new streetscape was essential if Albert Dock was to regain its identity, but it must be done in a sensitive and responsive way, where the needs of all the different users – pedestrians, motorists, cyclist and coach parties – are considered.
Dundee lost its historic dock structure in the 1960s, and the demolition of subsequent buildings meant that the site presented a tabula rasa for the new V&A Design Museum by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, due to open in September 2018.
Ben Palmer, director of Open (Optimised Environments), discussed his firm’s role in the landscaping of this flagship building. The setting on the River Tay offers a very different experience from Albert Dock, being three times wider than the Mersey and much more open.
The challenge was to create a public realm that did not to detract from this iconic building or from the historic ship The Discovery, which is berthed next to the V&A. A simple but precise approach to landscaping elements and features encourages people to explore and enjoy the new building and its environment, explained Palmer.
Two further Open projects were discussed, to show how the waterfront is being reconnected back to the city centre through a series of pocket-sized gardens that evoke Dundee’s seafaring history and culture.
The holistic approach of Swedish urban design was apparent in the next two presentations.
Peter Siöström, associate professor at the Institute of Sustainable Urban Design at Lund University in Sweden, discussed the university’s international master’s programme SUDes, (Sustainable Urban Dynamics). This exports Swedish urban design approaches around the world, through partnerships with Berkeley, University of California and especially in China with student workshops and study trips.
Using the transformation of the Western Harbour, a post-industrial area of Malmö, as a case study, he explained how his students are taught that human beings and urban life must be at the centre of any good masterplan.
Creating a sense of place and rich quality of life can only be achieved by addressing accessibility, diversity, identity and so on. Culture and heritage are components of the regeneration masterplan, but the driving force is how people live their lives now.
Ashwin Karjatkar, a graduate of the SUDes programme and now an urban designer for the Gothenburg Municipality, discussed the role of the public sector in the developing city. Gothenburg is currently home to one of the largest planning projects in Scandinavia, and Karjatkar showed how the masterplan is part of a process to find a modern identity for the city.
He explained how the municipality rises to the challenges of creating genuinely mixed residential areas and how Sweden’s focus on the common good allows architectural innovation to progress simultaneously with planning.
Municipal participation is a strong element in the planning for sustainable riverside cities, and Karjatkar described the new sauna, created in a new park at Frihamnen, the old Freeport, which was voted for by the public. Gothenburg will celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2021, and this has provided an impetus for regeneration.
The Interpro lecture series has been put together to celebrate the history and the regeneration of Albert Dock and the role the different built environment professionals have played in its success.
The half-yearly lecture events focus on different aspects of this exemplary heritage-led regeneration project that saw the redundant, bomb damaged Albert Dock transformed into a successful cultural and commercial hub.
The lectures look at historical aspects of the construction project and also explore the legacies of the MCD in Liverpool and Merseyside. The Albert Dock regeneration project inspired other waterside and post-industrial regeneration projects not only in the UK but also across the world, and these are discussed too.
All the full event write-ups are available to download from the Albert Dock Interpro website, including the IHBC event, http://albertdockinterpro.com/