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Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool

contributed by 323 World Architecture Festival , 19 October 2009


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Description Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool:

The new Arena and Convention Centre on Liverpool’s Kings Waterfront forms a focal point for the city’s Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008, providing a multipurpose 10,000 seat arena, conference centre with 1,350 seat auditorium, and a 7,600m2 exhibition facility supported by two hotels, a multi-storey car park and major new public piazza.

King’s Waterfront, to the south west of Liverpool’s city centre, is a highly sensitive site, created by the infilling of Liverpool’s famous, but now inactive docks and the clearance of associated buildings. The site, part of the historic river frontage to the Mersey, is important in both historic and visual terms, being adjacent to the listed (and now regenerated) Albert Dock and the Three Graces to the north. These, together with further historic buildings to the east at Wapping Dock, form Liverpool’s Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Site, recognised by UNESCO in 2004. These constraints imposed significant parameters in the development of the design and ongoing consultation with the Local Authority, English Heritage and other consultees.

Brief/Architectural Solution
Whilst the original brief for the project suggested that the arena and conference centre would be two separate structures, our competition scheme proposed that the optimum arrangement would be to organise these elements as a single complex, with direct links to supporting facilities such as hotels and car parks. The design solution therefore places two related, sculptural forms on either side of a glazed ‘galleria’, creating a strong organisational diagram and a clear architectural identity for the scheme.

The brief called for architecture of the highest quality with aspirations for the design to define Liverpool’s regenerated waterfront with a landmark structure. The architecture responds to its extraordinary waterfront context with a low, sculptural form which makes a strong contemporary intervention in the historic setting, continuing a sequence of distinctive civic buildings along the Mersey. An enhanced public realm reinforces linkages across the site - and to the city centre and waterfront beyond – and is enlivened with cultural and artistic activity, retail outlets, cafes and restaurants.

Viewed from the river the shape contrasts with yet compliments the adjacent Albert Dock buildings and resembles a pair of graceful outstretched arms spanning between Liverpool’s famous Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals on the skyline beyond. At night, these appear to float on a crystalline base arranged in three sweeping horizontal bands of varied transparency – clear glass at the base, an intermediate layer of patterned translucent glazing and an overhanging aluminium panelled rainscreen. The ergonomic shape of the arena bowl and wrapping circulation is expressed by the flowing forms of its enclosing skin, which relate to the fast-moving River Mersey with its strong tides, blustery winds and powerful reflected light.

The design is inherently flexible and utilises a horseshoe configuration for the main seating bowl. A dramatic concourse beneath the exposed underside of the bowl provides an exciting entrance into the new space. The concourse is expressed externally through a glazed circulation zone offering both views in and out to the river and city. The conference centre is conceived as a complementary architectural form, housing the main auditorium, a multipurpose exhibition hall and a suite of dedicated support spaces. The main auditorium is designed with two revolving seating volumes, allowing it to be reconfigured into three smaller spaces in a matter of minutes. All these activities are served from the central galleria, which provides the main vertical circulation and a link between piazza and waterfront.

Materials/Method of Construction
Developed with the latest 3D computer technology and using an approach akin to modern product design, the form has been developed as a ‘virtual’ computer model from an early stage. The lower levels are principally insitu concrete with a steel framed ‘armature’ forming the sculpted form of the building. The ‘electronic’ model was provided to the structural steel and cladding subcontractors who were able to develop their structural and envelope design directly onto it. The main roofs are covered with a single ply membrane bonded in the factory to prefabricated roofing panels and craned in place to be ‘stitched’ together on site. The galleria roof is spanned by a three dimensional steel frame formed from sculpted steel ribs infilled with ETFE air-filled cushions. Extensive use has been made internally with precast concrete elements where possible.

Environmental sustainability, together with economic growth and improved social cohesion, are the fundamentals of sustainable development. We recognised the need to revitalise the dockyard areas whilst at the same time enhancing the local environment and minimising the consumption of natural resources – both throughout the construction process and the designed life span of the completed scheme. At the outset a series of objectives were set regarding the full range of sustainability issues, including community and social benefit, a comprehensive travel plan, environmentally sensitive approach from waste arising from demolition and construction, selection of materials, considered use of water and energy, and the management of operational waste.

Zoning the building was a particular consideration. When in event mode, the loads on the building’s systems can be very high – and these are more a function of process rather than a building characteristic. The majority of plant is therefore switched off between events to leave the minimum background load required for offices and security and minimising unnecessary energy usage and distribution losses. Natural ventilation has been maximised throughout.

A bespoke BREEAM assessment was carried out on the building, for which the Building Research Establishment developed a number of challenging environmental performance targets specific to buildings on the Kings Waterfront site. The use of BREEAM provided a convenient method for monitoring and auditing the design through its development – with the scheme achieving a ‘Very Good’ rating - and will continue to provide a framework for post occupancy review.

: Timothy Soar 


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Information Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool:

Project function:
Liverpool, United Kingdom

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