Architecture: Facelift in natural stone

(July 2011) The exterior texture of the building is reminiscent scales on a fish and the huge window on the top floor could be likened to a shark’s wide open mouth. Lest we exaggerate, suffice it to say that the Museum of Liverpool is definitely unusual.

After all it was built in a world heritage designated area in which changes are usually frowned upon. Good thing that the concept was delivered by Danish architects 3XN, who have a reputation for realizing unusual ideas. The façade was developed by Danish specialists E. Pihl & Søn. We reported on a prior co-operation of the two in our March 2010 issue.

This time the designers gave the building a scaly look along its length with the help of an unusual alignment of Jura-limestone-tiles. The 3 cm-thick tiles came from the Vereinigte Marmorwerke Kaldorf where steel fastenings were pre-mounted. Mountings also by Befestigungstechnik  Keil Company of Germany, were applied to the back of the tiles.

The fastening points are hidden from view. Thus the unevenness and play of light between receding and protruding tiles lend an attractive pattern.

In contrast the window fronts are restrained and sleek with pronounced vertical lines in one material. Beholders will immediately recognize the pattern of the seams.

The museum, which will open its doors to the public shortly, tells the tale of the city from early times up until today including its industrial and rock-music history.


E. Pihl & Søn

Vereinigte Marmorwerke Kaldorf

Befestigungstechnik Keil

Photos: E. Pihl & Søn

The area surrounding the museum was also redesigned. The result is an area which will arouse the imagination of locals and tourists alike, perhaps to fantasize on sea-faring to foreign countries or simply to enjoy the picturesque scenery. Natural stone plays an important role in the overall picture.

Pivotal point of the master plan by AECOM Architects was the new waterway which was excavated right though the centre of the area past the famous building bearing the name „The Three Graces“ and brings the water so-to-speak within touching distance. Whereever the canal is open and widens into pools, the plaza dips down to its level.

Granite in a warm shade was used to create an optical relation to „The Three Graces“. The pavement is in dark granite. Varying sizes of slabs livens up the area optically.

Another design-highlight is the pier. The stone seats placed along its length are reminiscent of pylons to assist docking ships make fast. As a welcome side-effect they also prevent vehicles dipping into the harbour by accident.

The cobblestones also have a distinctive particularity: lines in light and dark stone are drawn straight across the street and sidewalk in continuation of the lines of the buildings along their length. The object is to also slow down traffic and widen the plaza optically.

The Chinese granites G682, G399, G654, G390 and Portuguese Lapa Grey were implemented. The project won the British natural stone award in 2010 and the Riba Cabe Public Space Award of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).


Photos: AECOM