Client: Liverpool City Council
Architect: BCA, Liverpool
Contractor: Amey, GRAHAM Construction

The first stages of Liverpool City Council’s £32million development project to improve Great Howard Street (A565), which links Liverpool and Sefton, are now well underway. As part of the scheme, a new abutment has been constructed to create a visually spectacular design feature for the new gateway to Liverpool, reflecting the city’s rich legacy. 

THE BRIEF

The ambitious project presented a major design and engineering challenge with a brief to create 46 pieces of artwork on the existing 6 x 1.8m precast cement bridge panels – on-site. Collaboration was key, with the artwork designed by BCA Landscape and Smiling Wolf for Liverpool City Council and implemented on site by Amey, GRAHAM Construction. 

Hardscape was enlisted to supply the stone/concrete materials and manage the design process, enabling the artwork to be created on-site. This proved to be a real test and Hardscape had to go beyond existing technology to explore new ways of working in order to create factory-quality artwork in-situ. 

BCA Landscape and local design agency Smiling Wolf led on the design of the revitalised bridge facade, with a brief to improve the aesthetics of the existing parapet bridge panels and create a standout feature to reflect the city’s history and heritage. 

Realised in etched concrete with blasts of bright orange paint, the Waterloo Goods artwork stretches the entire length of Great Howard Street Bridge; creating a striking welcome to the city of Liverpool for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. The artwork takes its name from the Waterloo Goods line, the now defunct train line which ran below the bridge, a once key artery for the city as it carried goods from the thriving docks to the wider country. Giant parrots sit side-by-side with local landmarks such as the Mersey Tunnel ventilation shafts and a 1950’s sugar silo – combining the exotic imports found at the dock with the architecture nearby, creating a unique and reverent homage to the cities dockland culture and spirit.
Andy Thomson, Director at BCA Landscape

The project was a feat of engineering – previously projects with such a high level of detailed artwork would be carried out in a factory unit and then transported to the site. However, the design work for Great Howard Street Bridge had to be created in a live, weather-dependant, on-site setting. 

Traditional techniques fell short, pushing the Hardscape team to explore new processes and exploring a range of options using its unique and existing ‘Artscape’ capabilities – the business’s inhouse design and engineering facility.  The result was a groundbreaking on-site, large-scale format media etching and painting process, designed to achieve a multi-surface 3D finish – the culmination of over 140 hours of research, sampling and trials. 

Working on-site also meant that the team had to minimise disruption to traffic and ensure the work could be carried out safely and securely. To this end, scaffolding was erected on small sections of the bridge, with work carried out on one area at a time. This also helped the team to contain dust produced as a result of sandblasting the concrete, while providing a controlled environment for the chemical treatments used to cure the Artscape. 

Steaming ahead to the future of landscape design

By combining pioneering technology, expert insight and inspiring creative design, this project has raised the bar for landscape architecture in the rail bridge sector. Moving away from a world of plain and austere concrete abutment designs, the Great Howard Street Bridge scheme was enlivened by BCA Landscape’s artistic approach, made possible thanks to Hardscape’s determined passion and belief which enabled a unique new process to be developed. As the first of its kind, this paves the way for other towns and cities to follow suit and provides inspiration for the creation of more outstanding gateway designs across the country. 

This is truly an epic project and I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved here in collaboration with BCA Landscape, Smiling Wolf, Amey and GRAHAM Construction. The iconic new Great Howard Street Bridge facade is the first of its kind, both in terms of its design – and the delivery technique applied – and I don’t think we can overstate the scale and complexity of this project. Up until now, Hardscape had focused on manufacturing in factory conditions. This new process meant that we had to manufacture the design feature, with all the on-site construction restrictions that brings. Together, we have proven that by testing, exploring and collaborating anything is possible and Artscape on-site is now a proven addition to our repertoire!
Mathew Haslam, Managing Director at Hardscape