• RIBA North

First look inside RIBA North at Mann Island

Ahead of its opening to the public this Saturday (17 June) Your Move headed down to Mann Island for a special tour of RIBA North.

The new national architecture centre has been designed as a place for the public to discover more about the art of construction with exhibitions, talks and tours.

The gallery will open this weekend with the exhibition ‘Liverpool(e): Mover Shaker Architectural Risk-Taker’, including items from the RIBA Collections which have never previously been publicly displayed.

Ahead of our special tour, Jane Duncan, president of RIBA, declared that she wants the venue to become the “go-to place for anyone who wants to find out more about the incredible architectural history of Liverpool” and its ambitions for the future.

After the speeches and before exploring the centre proper, we headed outdoors to inspect the specially created launch pavilion in the Winter Gardens.

Architect practice KHBT, which was invited to “visually and spatially interpret the aims and purpose” of the building, has created this covered public area at the entrance to RIBA North.


The result is an immersive, almost dream-like installation, which uses curtains of red mesh fabric typically used on building site scaffolding to create scale negatives of three of the most well known buildings in the North (Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Imperial War Museum North, and York Minster).

To be honest, I couldn’t tell which one was which but I’m sure that was down to my lack of architectural nouse rather than any failings of KHBT.

Back inside and we made our way to the first floor to experience the real heart of RIBA North, the City Gallery, which is home to centre’s most impressive feature – the Digital City Model.

This permanent interactive 3D digital city model recounts stories about Liverpool and the wider city region – a fascinating bit of kit which I could have spent hours studying – picking out landmark buildings on both sides of the river.

The model also doubles as a professional tool which can be used by developers, architects and planners to host public consultations and see what the impact of their future developments could have on the city region.

Alongside this permanent display is RIBA North’s opening exhibition ‘Liverpool(e): Mover Shaker Architectural Risk-Taker’, showcasing designs for Liverpool which were never built.

The gallery space features drawings, models and watercolours from the RIBA Collections, many of which have never been on display before including un-built proposals for Liverpool Cathedral by Sir Charles Nicholson and Philip Webb and a unique scheme by Sir Denys Lasdun from 1959 for the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral site.

My highlight of the exhibition was Will Alsop’s fascinating model of a proposed Pier Head development from 2002.

Designed as part of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture bid, it proposed the creation of the city’s ‘fourth grace’ known as ‘The Cloud’, which it was envisaged would include housing, offices, a hotel and a museum.


RIBA North looks set to be a great addition to Liverpool’s cultural offering. A haven for building enthusiasts eager to learn more about Liverpool’s past, present and future skyline; the centre could also prove a vital tool for plotting the next stage of the city region’s architectural appeal.

RIBA North opens to the public tomorrow. Liverpool(e): Mover Shaker Architectural Risk-Taker runs from 17 June – 16 September. Entry is free.

About Author: Lawrence Saunders

Lawrence is a journalist at Move Publishing. He can be contacted via email at lawrence@movepublishing.co.uk or by phone on 0151 709 3871.