Breathing new life into the first redbrick university to create a new destination for Liverpool.
Designed by the eminent architect Alfred Waterhouse in 1892, the Victoria Building was the first in the University of Liverpool’s estate. Its highly detailed, decorative style gave rise to the term ‘redbrick university’, but when the institution had outgrown its confines and moved many functions elsewhere, the grand old building became underused and undervalued.
Led by Professor Kelvin Everest, the university had aspirations for the building to house collections and accommodate the Educational Opportunities Department. They wanted the space to be opened up to the people of Liverpool and create a new visitor attraction to coincide with the city’s status as the European Capital of Culture in 2008.
Our challenge was to take this magnificent but tired building, unsuitable for modern teaching, and transform it into a new gallery and museum. With no disabled access or lifts, and being Grade II listed, we needed to work with the Victorian Society to bring the building into the 21st century.
The starting point was to make the most of Waterhouse’s stunning interiors as the backdrop for the new facilities. Through careful refurbishment, they are now visible to the public for the first time in the building’s history.
The Tate Hall, the original university library with lofty ceilings and timber beams, is now home to the university’s collection of historic artefacts, whilst art is also exhibited on the first floor. The Leggate Theatre, a semi-circular lecture hall, has been restored to host meetings, public lectures and music events. New offices for the Educational Opportunities Department are on the ground floor, providing an important resource encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to study.
To make the building more accessible, we relocated the main entrance away from the busy and polluted Brownlow Hill into the heart of the campus. From here, visitors can move into the new reception space, shop and café with level access across the ground floor. A new glazed passenger lift also provides access to upper floors for the first time.
Externally, the only ailing element was the impressive clock tower, which vies for attention on the skyline with the city’s two famous cathedrals. This was fully restored – establishing the Victoria Building as a Liverpool landmark once more.