Saturday, 8 December 2012

In My Liverpool Home

Liverpool was my birthplace. I'm a Scouser although I probably don't sound very much like one having been brought up on the Wirral peninsula. I tell you this so that you know that I may be simply biased when I say that it is one of the finest cities in the world but I do believe it. Yes it is less than salubrious in parts and quite scruffy in others but there is some fabulous architecture to be found there. So, when my daughter said she needed to take some architecture photographs for her A Level, there was only one place to go (New York and Venice being rather too far). This was something of a treat for me since, although I go into Liverpool quite often, it is usually with a specific purpose (shopping) so it is a long time since I've taken the trouble to study the buildings. In many cases, it was a welcome return to an old favourite but I also did a little bit of research beforehand and discovered some new gems. The only pity was that we didn't have more time.

As the main aim was for S to get some pictures, I decided to travel light and take just the one, 50mm lens on my D800. I was able to make use of the camera's selective format offering to get some different looks from the one lens but every picture in the montage above was taken yesterday with that one lens. I am sure that some would benefit from judicious cropping but that's for another time. Only the central image deviates from the 3:2 format, having had a little bit of foreground water removed to give a better balance.

We began the day in Toxteth; an area known for cultural diversity, there is a mosque, a synagogue and a Greek orthodox church within a few hundred yards of each other. All were photographed but, sadly, we were unable to go inside any of them. The website for the synagogue does say that it is possible to arrange tours and interior pictures look spectacular but, from the outside, it is the least remarkable of the three buildings. We wandered around a little, taking in the 'drive thru' Nat West Bank (sadly, doesn't appear to offer this unique facility anymore) and Toxteth Library before making the short journey down the road to the Anglican Cathedral. Previously, you have had to purchase a permit to photograph inside the cathedral but the appear to have dropped the charge and we were even assured we could use a tripod if we wished. It was here that I received my degree and I still cannot imagine a more impressive setting. It really is a magnificent structure. The Catholic, Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King was our next main target; it is, of course, dramatically different to it's counterpart at the far end of Hope Street. Although it cannot match the sheer drama of the Anglican Cathedral, I have become increasingly fond of it over the years and the stained glass is exceptional.

I decided at this point to leave my car where it was and head down into the city centre. Our route took us down to St. Georges Hall and William Brown Street, then through the central business district to the waterfront before heading back up through Liverpool One to Bold Street and, finally, Upper Duke Street and back to the car. I had planned the route to take in many of the classic buildings but also some of the newer structures that have appeared over the last 10 years. In addition to the two cathedrals, the highlights for me were:

Oriel Chambers : Built in 1864, this Grade 1 listed building was the World's first metal framed building, the precursor of many of the early skyscrapers found in New York and Chicago. That in itself makes it special but, when I was young, for me it was the place where first my Father (with Gracie Beazley) and, later, my Mother (for a Solicitors), both worked.

India Buildings : Opposite Oriel Chambers in Water Street, you will find India Buildings. This has a more functional, 1920s look to it but the magic is inside where there is an elegant arcade of shops. Sadly, many of the shop spaces are no longer occupied (I imagine passing trade is poor these days) but it still retains it's charm.

Exchange Flags : It's a curious name for a building and it really refers to the area behind the Town Hall where trading was traditionally carried out. The buildings surround the flags on three sides and it has long been a favourite space of mine. For many years, the offices lay empty and, if I recall, there was a question over their safety but I'm pleased to say that they have now been renovated and are back in use. The other significant feature of these building is that they sit above the underground operations rooms used during the second world war for the coordination of the fleet activities in the Western Approaches. This complex is no longer open to the public - a real shame because, having visited it on a couple of occasions, I found it fascinating.

Port of Liverpool Building : Known more commonly as 'the Dock Office', this is one of the three graces on Liverpool's Pier Head and, for me, is the most impressive. Although the Liver Building gets the greatest attention, the Dock Office is more elegant and I urge you to go inside. Here you will find corridors radiating out from a central, octagonal hall beneath the dome. Maritime themes can be found in the mosaic floor, the stained glass and, most obviously, in the inscription which runs around the eight walls of the hall; "They that go down to the sea in ships that do business in great waters these see the works of the Lord and his wonders of the deep. Anno Domini MCMVII".

The Bling Bling Building : I include this not just to prove that I like modern architecture as well as old, but also because I actually didn't know of it's existence before yesterday. It is quite embarrassing to admit it but the truth is that I never really go near Hanover Street these days. It certainly is a curious building but I really do like it, particularly looking up School Lane where the protruding pod seemed to balance perfectly against the (closer) pub sign.

St Luke's Church : Our final 'stop' on our tour was the bombed out church of St Luke's. The Church was struck by an incendiary bomb on 6th May 1941 and was completely gutted by the fire that engulfed it. It remains, maintained as a ruin, a memorial to those who died in the war.

The day ended with the short drive through the Birkenhead Tunnel (another marvel of engineering) to the Woodside Ferry Terminal where I made the final (central) picture of the day. Unfortunately, the warm, late afternoon light had been swallowed up by cloud so I had to make do with this four minute exposure. I did make a couple of even longer exposures but this was the most successful. All told, I was there for about half an hour in the company of a very interesting man who regaled me with interesting facts (some true) and fairly tall stories. And so, the montage - my tribute to the architecture of my City - each one taken yesterday. I must have another day like that soon.

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