In-filling of Historic Eighteenth Century Docks Creates an Abomination. Kings Dock - How Not To Do It The right complex. However, completely in the wrong location.

A wonderfull waterscape became a landscape.
Greed Destroying City's Heritage

Concerned Liverpudlians should contrast the Continental approach to conservation and renovation with the short term objectives of those driving the city's so-called redevelopment areas. Wealthy business interests in collusion with local and national political interests too often dictate, behind closed doors, grandiose philistine money making schemes, with no glorification to the city's heritage, but to that of a few who seek their own accumulation of wealth.  All appear obsessed with a new world of ad-hoc modernism with notions of the past swept clean and relegated to the confines of a museum, a modern museum of course.

18th Century Docks Filled In Creating Car Parks

Queens Dock dates from the 1700s. One of the docks branches was foolishly filled in to create car parking space. Yes, to create a car park. Would this happen in any other city? Doubtful indeed.

Arena Built On In-filled Docks

An arena, hotels, leisure and some residential buildings were errected on the in-filled docks. The arena is actually a very large structure holding 8,500 to 10,000 people. Liverpool needs these facilities we were all told, and true the city does.  However, at what cost?  A massive land area was created by the in-filling of three docks destroying a unique waterscape. 

Wonderful Waterscape Environment

The docks gave a wonderful intertwining waterscape screaming to be left alone and have suitable buildings constructed around them, giving an Amsterdam flavour to the area. The ideal choice would have been a natural modern extension of the adjacent Albert Dock - using the successful formula at Albert Dock, with buildings of the same height as Albert Dock warehouses, built right up to the quays incorporating covered colonnaded walkways. The successful Albert Dock formula along the original unfilled Dukes, Kings & Queens Branch Docks would have been the natural and ideal progression from the Albert Dock. This successful formula, with added inventiveness, offered the best solution to modern quayside developments very near the city centre, offering residential, shopping and leisure facilities.

What Do We Get?

What do we get?  A large land area created from the in-filling of the dock waters with a large arena structure, large multi-storey car park and rather lacklustre hotel buildings of forgettable design built on top.

Wrong Location

Of course Liverpool desperately needs the facilities offered by the Kings Dock Arena project. The ideal locations were:

  1. Opposite the Kings Dock on the land side of the docks in the Baltic Triangle.  
  2. The landside quays of Queens Dock. The arena would front the Queens Dock with the complex built over the Dock Road and maybe Parliament Street. 

The historic 1830s Wapping rail tunnel emerges opposite Queens Dock and is ideal to be reused directly serving the arena using rapid-transit Merseyrail, having the capability to movet large volumes of people quickly.

Liverpool's Historic Rail Tunnels 

Extending Rapid-Transit Merseyrail

Lack of Joined Up Thinking

The city could have had it all:

  1. A vibrant residential and leisure complex on the quays of the Kings & Queens Dock branches, Dukes Dock and Coburg Dock.
  2. An arena and associated hotels on the land side of Queens Dock's quays with an adjacent rapid-transit rail Merseyrail station.

What the city ended up with was a fantastic waterscape turned into a lack-lustre landscape with an arena looking like an IKEA shed with associated concrete multi-storey car park and hotels.  A vibrant residential and leisure waterscape is lost.

It is abundantly clear the current Kings Dock arena project should have been built on the Baltic Triangle or the land side of the Queens Dock's quays only yards away across the Wapping Dock with an adjacent historic rapid-transit railstaion served by a tunnel, built by Stephenson.  The existing Kings, Dukes and Queens Branch Dock could have been excavated back to their original quays and a wonderful water based Amsterdam style of environment created. 

The Kings and Queens Docks were the only docks that had branch dock piers projecting from the river wall into the expanse of Wapping Dock.  These piers formed the quays with sheds being built upon and made up the branch docks. If top class buildings were built upon these piers with panoramic view restaurants on the pier ends, a dramatic sight would have been created from the Dock Road on the land side across the Queens and Wapping Dock waters with the Anglican cathedral behind.  All this potential was squandered by lack of vision and bowing to short term money making objectives. 

Adjacent Projects Do Not Mesh

The Kings Dock and Baltic Triangle were mutually exclusive projects. Having no overall plan of what the complete dock system should be, hindered. Instead of a first class arena project on the Baltic Triangle/Queens Dock quays and top class building around reinstated docks, we end up with an overall clearly second rate offering.  No joined up thinking.  All too typical of Liverpool.

Historic Dock Waterspace Reduced to A Fairground

The dock water spaces are viewed as a means to generate money for large companies. This entails large entertainment complexes, as is the Kings Dock Arena project. The manager of the new arena complained that there are too few parking spaces for buses. The idea is to bus people in from outside of Liverpool, see an event, and they leave, leaving money behind in the till, as happens in a fairground. A 1700s docks are reduced to a form of fairground.

The docks and waterways should be for the people of the city to live around and enjoy the rich inheritance of their forefathers - the city-on-the-water. Commercial complexes can be easily sited on the land side of the dock water spaces and even fronting some of them. Leaving the dock water spaces for people to live around, enjoy the water and add vitality is by far the best approach. Residential and commercial can be both accommodated with the commercial on the land side of the water spaces.

Ideal Location For Kings Dock Arena

Below: The tower is the proposed Queens Dock Tower. The picture is Queens Dock with Kings Dock to the right. On the land side of Queens Dock on the waters edge, where the tower is proposed, would have been an ideal location for the arena with a water facing aspect. The area within the red lines. The Queens Tower could have been located on  one of the branch docks giving a superior location with superior views. The marked area is full of ramshakle industrial buildings awaiting clearance. Top right of the picture is where the arena was built. Where land tapers into the water is where the branch docks were filled in. Note that to the right of the Customs House built over the graving docks, one of the branch docks has been filled in to create a car park. The disused Wapping rail tunnel emerges to the bottom right just off picture, which is easily brought back into service serving the complex and surrounding districts.

A Lost Opportunity - 1960s Planning Again

In the past 60 years the city of Liverpool has either missed the boat, lost the plot, or went for the lowest common denominator. Little has been learnt from past mistakes.

The picture below clearly shows the mass of land generated by filling in docks originating in the 1700s. Yet again quays are used as car parks, serving the Customs House. A large IKEA shed-like looking arena is built on the in-filled docks.

The picture below is before the Kings & Queens Dock branches were filled in.  Some of the two floor dock warehouse sheds are visible. The eighteenth century Dukes Dock at the top of the site has already been filled in to create a car park.  

The piers projecting from the river wall create a superb and unique surrounding water based environment, just screaming for buildings to be built upon, attracting people to live and visit creating a 24 hour vibrant waterscape.

No Rapid-Transit Merseyail - a Rail Tunnel is Near

To the right in the picture above is a long building with a blue roof. The historic 1.25 mile 1829 Wapping rail tunnel emerges here. The world's first tunnel bored under a metropolis.  The adjacent land, the Baltic Triangle/Queens Dock Quays, was ideal for the arena complex, the perfect location complete with its own rail tunnel and rapid-transit station connected to the Merseyrail system, moving in and out large numbers of people. The station would also serve the immediate area reducing the need for car parks for residential and Customs House employees. The arena foolishly ended up on in-filled historic docks yards away across the dock waters at Kings Dock. 

Liverpool's Historic Rail Tunnels 

Extending Rapid-Transit Merseyrail

In 2001, the Ician Group proposed a very good scheme of apartments, hotels, conference centre and small arena, by excavating some of the in-filled docks creating a small network of canals. It was rejected.

The Kings, Dukes and Queens Dock complex could easily have created something similar to what is in the picture below, by just erecting buildings on the quays - the water and quays were all there ready.

Another IKEA Looking Shed on an in-filled Queens Dock?

Below: Planning permission was granted for three lacklustre plain ugly residential blocks to be be built on an in-filled Queens Branch Dock. The picture below is an artists impression of the three blocks, a small block is behind the Customs House.  We sacrifice an historic waterscape to have these anytown developments.  The dissapointments mount up. The concrete arena and multi-floor car park can be seen being erected on the in-filled Kings Dock.

Because of the Credit Crunch the developers are unable to complete this project.  Press reports of another IKEA looking type of shed being proposed for the site.

Concrete multi-floor Car Park Built on Kings Dock

On the in-filled Kings Dock, which now forms one side of Wapping Dock, a concrete multi-floor car park has been built. Behind the multi-floor car park a large concrete stadium structure was built.

This multi-floor car park is to get people in and out of the area to fill a stadium - a drive to and from the leisure complex. This will not create a 7 day a week, all year around vibrant attractive water based community. All very far removed from a vibrant Amsterdam environment this could all have been.

Below: An ugly, raw concrete, multi-floor car park being built - this could have been built on the land side of the docks with access using the bridges over the docks, releasing the land for buildings which would accommodate people, not cars. 

A Large Stadium at Central Docks?

There are rumours that a large concrete 60,000 seater stadium, used for around 25 days a year, may be built on in-filled docks at Central Docks. Central Docks is rumoured to be one of the earmarked sites for a stadium. A large imposing structure used for only 25 days of the year would kill the area dead. If built, the waterways and docks would be filled with litter from the large football crowds. Locating a large concrete structure in a  primarily residential area would be as stupid as building a nuclear power station at Central Docks.  

Now no one could be so stupid to do such a dumb thing. Or could they be?