• Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral: Experts view

Architecture: Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral – the experts’ view

Architecture: Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral – the experts’ view

Move Commercial finds out what the city’s architects think of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral as its golden jubilee is celebrated in 2017.

Curated by Natasha Young


Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral: Experts view

L to R: Frank Olchowski; Alastair Shepherd; Chris Bolland

Frank Olchowski
director, Denovo Design

Back in 1967 I remember being intrigued by the contemporary design of the metropolitan cathedral, which was regarded at the time as being ‘ground-breaking’.

Externally, and fascinating to me architecturally, was the architect’s modern interpretation of ‘flying buttresses’, traditionally built from stone or brick but in this instance made from reinforced concrete, giving a very ‘current’ edge.

The completed circular interior was spectacular with the height of the lantern, the multi-coloured stained glass which bathed the congregation with constantly changing colours, and the positioning of the altar – in the centre – providing uninterrupted sight lines.

Many years later, space and light continue to be key drivers of the design concepts at Denovo.

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Alastair Shepherd
director, Falconer Chester Hall

My earliest memory of the metropolitan cathedral was visiting Liverpool as a nine-year-old in 1984. When I next returned to the city to study architecture in 1993 it was like meeting an old friend again, such was the impression it made. I loved spending time in the building’s vibrant interior while I was a student, appreciating the quietness it offered.

Soon after joining Falconer Chester Hall I was lucky enough to be part of the team that delivered the ceremonial approach, which finally stitched the building into its context. At the time it felt like life going full circle.

> Related | Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral’s golden jubilee: The structure’s importance, architecture and history

Chris Bolland
managing partner, Brock Carmichael

Compared to the Lutyens scheme, ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ is a truly iconic building delivered on a much reduced budget – a symbol of efficiency.

It’s globally known, a strong symbol of Liverpool’s positive outgoing philosophy and of its time, but still fresh, breathtakingly bold and overtly modern.

Surrounding science and university parks’ regeneration has recently established a new context and the building is no longer an outpost but rooted in the fabric of the city.

It’s a fantastic symbol of peace which has and will continue to bring communities together during difficult times, and makes the case for modern architecture having a strong positive contribution to the progression of the city.


Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral: Experts view

L to R: Rob Burns; Paul Monaghan; Kevin Horton

Rob Burns 
urban designer, Blok

The metropolitan cathedral says much about Liverpool; the unapologetic modernity of a building designed to work together with the more Gothic-inspired Anglican cathedral, the way in which the building re-uses the site of former structures (in this case a huge workhouse), and the series of events created by an on-off-on project that led to the final design.

Along with the Anglican cathedral, the metropolitan cathedral dominates the skyline – a manifestation of ecumenical dialogue that is part of the character of Liverpool.

It illustrates how designers need context and a sense of place as part of their skillset.

Paul Monaghan
director, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

The metropolitan cathedral was my first exposure to modern architecture as a child growing up in Liverpool.

It was uncompromisingly modern when it was built, but at the same time it was very popular – it captured the optimism of the city at that time.

I’ve learnt a lot from it, but the most important lesson has been that modern buildings built with pride and integrity can be really loved by the public.

It’s also had a more direct influence on our work in Liverpool; the Royal Court’s new display is inspired by the cathedral’s bell tower.

Kevin Horton
architectural director, K2 Architects

What’s truly exciting about this cathedral is it represents a significant moment in the development of modern Liverpool’s sense of identity. The city was stepping into an uncertain future within a post-industrial age. Gibberd took huge personal and professional risks to make a bold statement about how that future could look.

I have no doubt that his 1959 design looked for inspiration in the then newly emerging ultra-futuristic city of Brasilia, where a year earlier Oscar Niemeyer had laid the cornerstone for the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Aparecida. 1960s Brasilia was a place where anything seemed possible; ironically 1960s Liverpool proved to be a place where anything was possible.

The cathedral has since seen some difficult times and has perhaps not always been adequately appreciated. To me, it personifies the real enduring character of Liverpool – it’s enterprising, independently minded and resourceful.