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Liverpool School of Architecture 100 years on

Words:
Eleanor Young

Professor Ola Uduku, head of Liverpool University’s school of architecture, talks to Eleanor Young about its centenary of RIBA validation and its role in the International Slavery Museum

The competition model for the new architecture building at the University of Liverpool, designed by O’Donnell+Tuomey.
The competition model for the new architecture building at the University of Liverpool, designed by O’Donnell+Tuomey.

Liverpool was the first school to be validated by the RIBA. What’s the plan for the centenary?

We are celebrating with a lecture by Royal Gold Medallist Lesley Lokko, which gives the whole moment more presence – all part of the life of a venerable school.

And we are celebrating our alumni, inviting them to join us in the first ‘homecoming event’. Our alumni are amazing, not just the most famous like James Stirling, Maxwell Fry, Colin Rowe and Bob Maxwell. We are still discovering many female alumni like Beatrice (Betty) Woodhouse, who was just one of two women in her cohort when she studied here from 1931 to 1935.

We also have strong international links including the Polish School, which moved to Liverpool during World War II, and those trained in the 1930s such as the Egyptian Mahmoud Riad, South African William Holford and Chen Zhanxiang from China.

The school has both a city and global focus. How do you achieve that?

The Liverpool city region and surrounds area provide an incredibly rich architectural context with which to engage.

We continue to set studio projects in these diverse settings and are now very involved in community-focused work. We have projects in Huyton, Birkenhead and Toxteth in the city. Our professor of practice, Ilze Wolff, who also practises in Cape Town, South Africa, is developing a studio working in the Granby Toxteth area.

Internationally there is research on mercantile history, as seen with Professor Jackson’s work on the Unilever archive. We also have faculty engaged in sanitation and housing projects in Bangladesh. The ARCHIAM research centre focuses on architecture, history and archaeology, researching in the Middle East and North African region. I am just about to start a project exploring post war tropical hospital design.

We want our students to be exposed to the wisdom of the Granby Toxteth community

The International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum as it is currently on Liverpool Waterfront.
The International Slavery Museum and Maritime Museum as it is currently on Liverpool Waterfront. Credit: Pete Carr

Lokko’s lecture is not your only link with Royal Gold Medallists. You have a new home under construction designed by O’Donnell+Tuomey.

We have got a crane on site and have 18 months of build to go. The students were involved with the jury on the architectural competition and have been visiting site. And the doors have been blown off the Architecture Building for the two to be linked.

How does your recent project in East and West Africa build a new generation of historians and critical thinkers?

I’ve worked with students and early career researchers on a number of writing workshops in East and West Africa supporting postgraduate level students and early career researchers in architecture and related subjects to appreciate their campus heritage and develop their writing skills through blogs and short form critical pieces on campus architecture. 

You are working on the International Slavery Museum with FCB Studios. What will that involve?

Our aim is for the school to develop an embedded spatial practice in Granby Toxteth and in that way co-produce activities and public cultural projects at the museum. We want our students to be exposed to the wisdom of the Granby Toxteth community, and see this co-creation production process lasting well beyond the museum project. We hope this will develop into a series of ethical design-build projects, like Rural Studio in Alabama, over the next few years. 

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With 235 programmes running across the globe, the RIBA validation programme has grown significantly over the last century. Today, RIBA validation is an evidence-based, peer review system working both nationally and internationally as a critical friend to schools of architecture, reviewing standards and relevance in today’s world, encouraging excellence, and ensuring a positive student experience. The lecture will take place on 20 March 2024, tickets are available here.

 

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