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BLOG BEING UPDATED - TRY AGAIN LATER This blog records the controversial era of British architecture, 1960's Brutalism. Many Brutalist buildings have been demolished and many still are under threat


Brutalist event and exhibitions

The Architects

meet the architects behind the buildings

Buildings in danger

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Brutalism in Britain


Brutalism today

Does brutalism have a future?

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Liverpool Sugar Silo

When travelling along the dock road out of Liverpool there is a surprising structure of concrete which dominates the corner of Bankfield street and Derby road. It surely makes one of the must unusual and unique dock buildings in Liverpool, a city with a rich selection of dock buildings of all ages.  The building was built in 1955-57 by the Tate and Lyle's engineering department to store sugar as it came in to the port of Liverpool. The building is of a very simplistic design as was the fashion of the 1950's with a single chamber tunnel vault with entrance and windows at both ends. It has a very elegant form, although the corrugated iron addition to the top of the building detracts from this elegance. The building was listed at grade 2* in 1992 by English Heritage as good example of reinforced concrete parabolic tunnel vaulted storage unit.

The building no longer serves its original purpose of storing sugar as more modern form of storage have been adopted. For many years it was used as a lorry park for lorries in the docks. More recently the building stands redundant and at risk. It is a hard building to covert to a new purpose due to the expanse of space and the lack of windows, which are only on the two ends of the building. However I could imagine the building be put to a good and effective new use, a new concert venue or exhibition hall perhaps? 

The building could be considered a modern day equivalent to the Victorian Tobacco warehouse of Stanley dock (also on the dock road), due to its scale and purpose for one product storage. By comparison this building too is hard to find a new use due to its size and lack of light. Although there are no issues with 2 meter high floors in the Sugar silo, an issue long made the tobacco warehouse unsuitable for conversion. 

The building has appeared in many books and publications including 1001 buildings you must see before you die Mark Irving, which perhaps suggests it is appreciated by many people who believe like English Heritage it is an important building worthy of preservation.  

Friday, 22 February 2013

Kingsway tunnel ventilation shafts

 The Kingsway tunnel ventilation shafts are two identical structures on the opposite sides of the Mersey which provide ventilation for the Kingsway road tunnel. They were completed in 1971 when the Kingsway tunnel was completed between Liverpool and Wallasey. The two towers dominate the riverfront of north Liverpool and Wallasey sited on the dock road and on the Wallasey promenade respectively. The buildings have a simple composition with a central tower/chimney with two air intakes on each side. The buildings are very utilitarian, being  strictly functional with striped back decoration. The buildings are mostly concrete with exposed concrete on the tower (or chimney) and white coloured concreted for the two air intakers. The base is built with a dark brick. Although the buildings may look very simple they actually have subtle curves on the tower and air intakers which are much more pleasing than straight edges. 

The towers were built by the civil engineering firm who built the Kingsway tunnel directly below each structure, Edmund Nuttall Limited (now known as BAM Nuttall Limited). The fact that they were built by engineers rather than architects means that the buildings cannot be contributed to a single architect or even set of architects, just to a anonymous set of engineers therefore there is not a name associated with the buildings other than that of the engineers. The two towers are unlisted  but unlikely to be threatened with demolition as they still carry out there original purpose and replacing them would be very expensive. 

Also on the Mersey are a set of earlier ventilation shafts completed in 1934 for the Queensway tunnel, the original road tunnel across the Mersey. These are a stark contrast to the Brutalist towers of the 1970's, those on the Liverpool front are faced in stone whilst those on the Birkenhead front are faced in a dark brick. The fact that the two new towers are similar and not completely different like the previous towers of the 1930's  demonstrates to my mind a more egalitarian partnership between the two sides of the river as they are treated equally (instead of the expensive stone for prosperous Liverpool and cheap brick for the less affluent birkenhead side).