Here at interconnect/it we consider ourselves privileged to work in one of the greatest cities in the world. Liverpool has of course always been a cultural and creative hub, but the last few years has seen a number of creative businesses proliferate around the culturally rich “Hope Street Quarter.” Our offices on Brownlow Hill are at the edge of this area close to the University of Liverpool campus in the hi-tec Liverpool Science Park development. For anybody with even a passing interest in Liverpool’s history, architecture or culture it’s a great place to work.
Take a stroll at lunchtime and it’s possible to walk the length of Hope Street, Liverpool’s two towering epic Cathedrals at either end, and be back in the office within 20 minutes or so. The short stretch takes in such a multitude of cultural and historical touchstones that it’s impossible not to return to the office refreshed and inspired.
Take a right turn out of our building and immediately you are faced with the highest landmark in the city, Frederick Gibberd’s immense Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. I usually ascend the steps onto the precinct at the rear. Directly opposite sits the Active Learning Laboratory of the University of Liverpool’s Engineering Department. This much photographed box-like structure is constructed one meter above the older Engineering building. The building is clad with 413 LED dotted panels, each panel constructed of twin glass layers which are lit at night in a myriad of colours creating a stunning visual effect. Glancing right from the steps one sees the only part of the Cathedral built from the original uncompleted Lutyens design, the Crypt. Escalating building costs and the second world war ended work on this design. The Gibberd designed Cathedral as we know it now was built between 1962 and ’67. I recently found a wonderful old photograph on the Streets of Liverpool website, looking down Hope Street in 1965, the construction of the Cathedral is clearly well underway.
Walk across the Cathedral precinct, clockwise around the huge circular structure, underneath and between the massive concrete trusses you are afforded a view of our other great Cathedral at the opposite end of Hope Street (we’ve got one to spare you know!). The great Liverpool photographer Edward Chambré Hardman captured this view in the late 60s looking out between the stark, modernist buttresses to the huge neo-gothic structure beyond. The two figures strolling under the buttresses give some idea of the sheer scale of the building.
Descending the steps at the front of the Cathedral you’ll pass its smart café/restaurant. Our Director, Dave Coveney has been known to entertain clients here over a hot, foaming double-skinny latte macchiato.
At the junction of Mount Pleasant and Hope Street you might glance left up towards Oxford Street and catch sight of another buttressed building. Not on the scale of the Cathedral of course and sure to divide opinion on its architectural merits is Sir Denys Lasdun‘s Liverpool University Sports Hall (1963). Recently extended, though not in the same style, the hall might be seen as an earlier utilisation of the bare concrete style Lasdun would go on to use for perhaps his most famous building The Royal National Theatre. The building’s stark, squat geometric proportions counterpoint Abercromby Square’s Georgian splendor.
Cross over Mount Pleasant, past the old Liverpool Medical Institute building and you’re on Hope Street. The recently closed (for rebuilding) Everyman Theatre has a rich history nurturing local acting and writing talent. Liverpool playwrights Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale both debuted work at the Everyman. Whilst Julie Walters, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Pryce, Pete Postlethwaite, Antony Sher, Bill Nighy and many other great actors have trodden its boards.
Walking on we have a great selection of bars and restaurants based in some of the wonderful Georgian buildings near the corner with Hardman Street. In particular we can recommend The Side Door, the Casa and The Clove Hitch (hic!). Cross over the road to the fabulously ornate Philharmonic Dining Rooms (aka “The Phil”), a great old Liverpool pub built by the Liverpool brewer Robert Cain. Of particular interest here are the original Victorian marble toilets which even attract tourists!
Walk over Hardman Street and you’ll be facing Herbert Rowse‘s Philharmonic Hall, the home of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. One of my favourites of all Liverpool’s great buildings and built in a wonderfully elegant, restrained, ‘streamlined moderne’ style, attending a concert here always feels like a special event. Our own Rob O’ Rourke has been taking design cues from the Philharmonic as he heads-up development on one of our latest projects – the new Plaza Cinema website. The Plaza was built in a Deco style and opened in the same year as the Philharmonic – 1939, though this is the second Philharmonic Hall, the first being destroyed by fire in 1933.
Cross over the road now and you’ll be outside one of Liverpool’s smartest boutique Hotels – The Hope Street Hotel. If you’re ever fortunate enough to be staying here the 5th floor terrace offers wonderful views across the city centre down towards the river. The Hotel and its restaurant (The London Carriage Works) are housed in an old Venetian palazzo style building. You may spot a celebrity or two here. Walk on past the Sheppard-Worlock statue and a little further down is another fine restaurant, 60 Hope Street. Indeed, foodies are spoiled for choice as Ego, Host and The Quarter are all here as well, tested and approved by the interconnect/it team.
Beyond 60 Hope Street and you arrive at the ‘Hope Street Suitcases’ art installation. Its formal name is ’A Case History’ created by John King in 1998. Each suitcase or package is numbered and relates to a person or place that has some connection with the Hope Street Quarter. Most significantly of course are the majority of the Beatles (you may have heard of them), who attended the adjacent Liverpool Institute (now LIPA), but you’ll find some other maybe surprising names such as Charles Dickens the author, who lectured and gave readings in the Institute. There’s a great view from here down Mount Street towards the river. A few more paces beyond the cases, at the corner of Hope Street and Upper Duke Street you’ll find a great view of the towering Liverpool Cathedral.
Hope Street actually continues from here past the wonderful Gambier Terrace and on to Upper Parliament Street, but it’s probably time to turn around and head back!
Returning to the office, walking back down Hope Street there are so many other stories that could be told, dance studios, theatre companies, designers, architects… maybe we need to make these blog posts a regular series! Back at our desks how can we not be inspired to produce great website design and builds when we’re surrounded by so many great architectural, creative and cultural influences?