Opening the public realm
The Baltic Triangle is a post-industrial area of Liverpool, about 20 minutes from the city centre. A host of new activity, artists and entrepreneurs have gradully been re-inhabiting the area, bringing it a new attraction and energy. However, with an existing grain that remains incredibly closed and opaque, this activity goes largely unnoticed and remains inaccessible from the public realm.
St James Train Station sits at the bottom of a deep cutting, similarly dormant, hidden and out of service for decades. The brief to reinstate it reflects the wider manifesto for the Baltic Triangle. It is to be more than purely a station but a community hub - a place of exchange, interchange and interaction.
My project takes the iconic typology of the warehouse district in its simple, legible form and breaks into its opacity, unfolding and cutting into facades to open the public realm.
The importance of efficient and effective circulation routes are combined with the opportunity for interaction, pauses whilst waiting for trains, passing trade.
Workshop spaces and artist studio spaces are available for community rental, showcasing the creative talents that are reviving the district and anchoring their continued presence as the community continues to grow and thrive.
The importance of transport nodes as a connection, a civic presence and status is balanced with the equally important provision of local, free and publicly accessible space.
It orientates and connects itself to the scale of the city of Liverpool, creating views with the Cathedral, the axial road to the centre and the docks beyond; yet it also nestles subtly into the local typology and the depth of the cutting
It breaks down visually and physically into stepped landscapes, seats and balustrades - meeting the scale of the city with the scale of the human experience.
BA3 Graduation Project, University of Liverpool
city as house, house as city
legibility and accessibility
community-centred urban renewal
“Spaces should always be articulated in such a way that places are created”
– Herman Hertzberger
An impermeable exterior hides the energy of the interior
Despite several years of creative minds, business start ups and entrepreneurial energy, the Baltic Triangle remains feeling empty and uninviting to the passer-by on the street.
The warehouse typology provides a fantastic open interior, inspiring trendy food markets and festivals inside. Yet it offers very little to the street, experienced simply as a blank facade, directly abutting the pavement.
The Baltic Manifesto plans to foster and grow this creative energy, providing the tools for an inclusive regeneration of the area to support and retain its artistic inhabitants.
The emphasis is on flexibility, incubation, user-driven development; yet already this intention to support bottom-up growth is under threat from multiple development plans.
The old brewery to the West is to be redeveloped as a visitor attraction and plans for high-rise residential development are already under progress towards the East.
The reinstatement of the train station is a crucial piece of public infrastructure, designed to serve each and every member of the local community, new arrivals and visitors alike.
Aldo Van Eyck's concept of the "house as city, city as house" informs this design, creating a public place that brings together and accommodates the varying needs of the city as one whole community.
The bright energy of the interior is opened out, made accessible and public for all to see, experience, interact with and occupy.
The Baltic Manifesto - for a vibrant neighbourhood
Concept diagram - opening the public realm
Visual access - defining key views
This public accessibility is approached via three main architectural tools - visual permeability, physical permeability and social permeability.
The structural grid is derived from the identification of three key axes that connect and orientate via views of the city, locating the visitor within both their local and wider context.
Legibility is then reinforced via this structure, utilising openings within the plan, glazed sections of the facade and aligned circulation to guide the visitor through their journey.
Exhibition spaces and artists workshops are located within these visual axes to bring the opportunity for interaction and publicity to local businesses.
Circulation weaves from ground floor at street level, down to the platforms deep in the cutting, then back up to the slower pace of the first floor exhibition spaces. It is guided throughout by the structural grid, providing views through to the next step of the journey process.
The pace of physical access is equally guided, with pauses offered via the use of thresholds. Colonnades create a spatial transition in front of the artist's studios, benches sit at the base of the columns to await the trains, deep balustrades line the void openings, inviting visitors to lean over and watch the trains pass with their morning coffee.
Social access animates the whole station, bringing together an ever-expanding variety of purposes, backgrounds, pathways and intentions.
Spaces are large and open to encourage gathering, whilst steps and seats facilitate pause, meeting, comfort. Marketplaces, studios and workshops anchor people to the daily life of the place, whilst exhibition space, cafes and shops anchor others to its transitory life.
The simplicity of the (ware)house typology creates a cosiness within the scale of the city, inviting all to feel at home within the city.
Physical access - circulation guided by key views
Social access - accommodate interaction and exchange
The South facade features a much more open facade and marketplace, reflecting the more residential scale of the context
Archetypal features of the train station facade define the North elevation, giving a civic presence to the street. Open landscaping and ground floor ensure an inviting public realm is maintained
The sloping terrain to the West takes a stepped landscaping. A slot of glazing reveals the structural build up below
Passive design strategies and low embodied carbon solutions are prioritised, encouraging long-term lifestyle change
Stairs weave in and out of the cutting, creating moments of interaction between inside and outside
The simple and well-known warehouse typology allows a form that is easily legible and accepted, giving more space for playfulness in the structure and detailing
Reaching the top of the stairs from the platform, voids in the cofferred floor above open up to people seated around the balustrade above
Legibility is facilitated through a series of key views to orientate on arrival. The structural grid and resultant plan is derived from these views, guiding the visitor throughout
External landscaping scoops towards the entrance, creating a series of East and South facing steps to invite pause, picnicking and sharing
Two wide staircases offer the descent to lower levels and the platforms themselves, whilst full height glazing provides exciting views out over the passing trains
A mid level floor sits just under the existing bridge, housing a much more 'rough and ready' atmosphere to mark the descent into the railway cutting
As the steps arrive at ground floor, orientation is given via the sequence between ticket office to bikes/taxis to St James Church in the community beyond
The ground floor level is a tall double height space, animated by the grand structure that spans from platform to roof
The first floor houses galleried exhibition space. Away from the hustle and bustle below, a more spacious interaction between artist and customer is facilitated
The double colonnade creates transitory zones between the rush to the trains and the pause of customers and artists in their workshops
The entire platform length is animated by circulation, providing 'back routes' oriented towards local residents, complimenting the main thoroughfares that direct newcomers
Grand, oversized steel columns span the entire distance from platform to roof, angled according to the structural grid. Besides their structural role, they create a threshold to the interior, inhabited by benches, balustrades and planters
The coffered ceiling takes on the same detail and geometry as the overarching structural grid
Stairs wrap around the columns, cut into the earth sides and change direction to create an animated and sociable circulation
The section makes full use of the height, facilitating a gradient of experience as passengers alight and emerge from the platform
Seating and planters at the base of the structure bring a human scale to the intfrastructure