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The Fourth Disgrace

September 20 2004

The Fourth Disgrace
Over the summer Liverpool City Council abandoned the Fourth Grace, the flagship project of the Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008, after deciding that the project was “no longer viable because of increasing costs and fundamental changes from the original scheme”.
The cost was estimated at £228 million last July, but has risen to £324 million. The decision, which coincided with a decision by the HLF not to support Daniel Libeskind’s Spiral at the Victoria and Albert Museum, was met with a combination of shock and glee. It re-ignited the debate about the architectural branding and the value of iconic buildings.
Will Alsop described the decision as coming “out of the blue” and expressed disbelief at the reasons behind it. “I think we have got a good design that is entirely viable”, he said. “I find it difficult to understand why anyone would say that it is not viable.”
Tony Siebenthaler, director of lobbying body Downtown Liverpool, believes that the decision to scrap the Fourth Grace was influenced by the fact that Liverpool waterfront recently received UNESCO World Heritage Site status. “This scheme could have been made commercially viable if enough apartments could have been built,” said Siebenthaler, ”but the pressures of the World Heritage status meant that it was not an option because of height and volume restrictions.”
Will Alsop’s “Cloud” would have sat alongside the Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings on the waterfront, and speculation has already begun over what will happen to the site. There are suggestions that it will be taken over by one of the original short-listed teams who competed against Alsop. Favourites include Urban Splash with Norman Foster, or the team whose design came top in the public vote – David McLean/Downing Developments with Edward Cullinan Architects.

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