Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Liverpool One, by David Littlefield.

I was asked to review this book for Building Design magazine. Not surprising the author has taken it badly.
And that was the edited version.
29 June, 2009
Reviewed by Wayne Colquhoun, chairman and spokesperson of the Liverpool Preservation Trust

Written in the euphoria of the opening of Liverpool One, a shopping centre that opened, ironically, just as we hit the worst retail recession for 80 years. All those moody shots of… shop fronts and escalators.
Liverpool One by David Littlefield.It says everything one would expect it to. It was funded and published by Grosvenor. It tells the story as they want it to be told.
But it fails to address questions like how much Grosvenor paid for the a third of Liverpool city centre. The people put out of business who lost their livelihoods don’t have a say, it just waxes lyrical, and it’s all from the developer’s point of view.
I am not sure who would buy such a book that at times is factually incorrect, especially the section about the Cesar Pelli monolith on Chavasse Park, in the World Heritage Site buffer zone, which was 12 storeys on the masterplan and increased to 17.
I had to navigate the city being dug up for years to get more choice for shirts, and now Grosvenor-pool has opened I still can’t find a decent one.
It praises the architects, the council, the duke, and the people who worked there. Anyone would think they had built Rome.
In reality it is not brilliant architecture. They knocked down The sixties Moat House and Steers House (two hated buildings) and built blocks in the same style, only 12 storeys higher. All the architectural critics have now had their say, but as the dust settles this is a book about a shopping centre, an open roofed Trafford Park in the City. Yippeee!

COMMENTS BY David Littlefield 3 July, 2009
As the author of the book, it's clearly not up to me to say whether it's any good or not. But (equally clearly) Mr Colquhoun doesn't like the Liverpool One development, which is entirely predictable, bearing in mind his role at the local preservation trust. However, his view of the book is jaundiced by his view of the development itself. Rather than waxing lyrical, the book contains some material that makes uncomfortable reading for Grosvenor, as the project didn't go entirely according to plan. Grosvenor has been honest about things which most private firms would not make public. Also, Grosvenor did not publish the book - Wiley did, and they are certainly not in the business of publishing the sort of puffery Mr Colquhoun suggests it is. As for the question of how much Grosvenor paid the city council for the site - the answer is in the book (it's a percentage of rental income). As for the Duke, he gets 2 or 3 brief mentions in a book of 40,000 words. Mr Colquhoun hasn't reviewed this book - he's used it as an opportunity to criticise the project itself. I would hope that most readers would find a far greater degree of objectivity in this book than he suggests.

He has been paid for it (by Grosvenor or the publishers) so he's alright I suppose. I just cant understand why anyone would want a book about a shopping centre.......and not a very good one at that. I have to say that I love modern design and all this critisizm about not being able to judge modernism is really silly. Bad or boring architecture is the same no matter what style or era it is. The secret is being able to see that and not be persuaded by a load of press pack tosh. Talking of which here is the Daily Ghost review.

WHAT ANNOYS ME IS THAT HE, BEING PAID BY GROSVENOR HAS PROPEGATED UNTRUTHS ABOUT THE CESAR PELLI BUILDING ON CHAVASSE PARK. Yes he says it is not universaly liked (a understatement). BUT HE WRONGLY CLAIMS THAT THE BUILDING WAS REDUCED FROM 20 TO 17. THIS IS RUBBISH. The building was 12 Storeys on the master plan and the greedy Grosvenor wacked the height up to 20 so they got 17. I know this because I was there at the planning meeting. This has now backfired on them. At the present moment in time 56 out of 346 flats are occupied. http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2009/06/rod-holmes-came-in-my-shop-today.html

I was about to limber up to tackle the need to understand how we opened a retail therapy palace at the start of the worst recession for 80 years but I think a nice byline is the take on the subject by Correspondent who says it well.


  1. Seriously you need to justify the facts with hard evidence it's basic research 101, and the facts that you do publish are wrong, if you want to be taken seriously start getting it right!

  2. I would assume that as you are anonymous, how come so many people who are part of the development Cabal are, Yes you would say that wouldnt you. What the Grosvenor-pool people think with their unlimited budget is you can kid all of the people all of the time........afraid not.