Celebrating great design not solely from the capital

This week we kick off a series of pull-outs focusing on design outside London with an appraisal of the creative scene in Liverpool (facing pages 20 and 21).

By exploring ‘happening’ cities such as Liverpool, we hope to provide insight into the diversity of creative talent across the UK, balancing the view of London as the creative capital with news of the personalities and cultures that exist elsewhere. We also seek to highlight initiatives of national significance such as Liverpool’s nomination as European Capital of Culture 2008 and Birmingham’s wholesale regeneration of the Bullring retail area that promise to bring work both to local design groups and to those based elsewhere, if they haven’t already done so.

In Liverpool our intrepid reporter Trish Lorenz found the pulse still racing to the Mersey beat that put that North West city on the map in the 1960s through the pop music scene and The Beatles in particular, and more recently through the club culture of nationally renowned enterprise Cream. The difference now is likely to be that design rather than music has a bigger part to play in the city’s revitalisation, albeit through projects such as the contentious Fourth Grace by London architect Alsops. And such projects are certain to leave a lasting legacy.

Big international names and London stars tend to take a lead in ventures of national significance. Take Manchester in its post-bomb regeneration of the area around the Arndale shopping centre. While the city is buzzing, having redefined itself post-Hacienda as a youthful city with a significant gay focus and all the spending power that entails, it owes much of its new look to design imported from elsewhere – and largely from architects.

Manchester’s new Selfridges includes interiors by London’s Future Systems, Stanton Williams and Adjaye Associates, among others. Local architect Ian Simpson designed the Urbis Centre, the museum of the modern city and a Millennium Project, but its installations are by the likes of London consultancy Land Design Studio. Meanwhile, London architect Michael Wilford & Partners created the Lowry Centre at nearby Salford Quays and Daniel Libeskind designed the neighbouring Imperial War Museum North.

Like Glasgow, which beat Liverpool to become European City of Architecture and Design in 1999, Liverpool will undoubtedly benefit from its year of fame. The energy is already there as the stage is set for the event and the city is vibrant. But let’s hope that those commissioning creative work take the opportunity to make a few local design names as well as bringing in the international stars to boost the city’s attractions.

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