Will Alsop sadly passed away earlier this week and I remember the first time I met Will Alsop back in 2002 when I was Development Surveyor for Neptune Developments in Liverpool and, alongside our JV partner Countryside, we were bidding to deliver to ‘Fourth Grace’ on Liverpool’s waterfront’ adjacent to the existing ‘Three Graces’ of Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building. The Fourth Grace was going to be a mix of hotel, offices, retail and leisure as well as a new home for the National Museums Liverpool. As a young(ish) development surveyor working client-side for the first time, this was a truly ambitious, exciting yet controversial scheme to be involved with, that if delivered, would have put Liverpool on a different global stage to where it was at the time.
Will Alsop was so different to other architects we had worked with before – not loud and brash like the majority of his designs, but slightly reserved and careful with his chosen words. His colleagues at that time were Christophe Egret and the younger David West (who would both go on to form Studio Egret West) - all very talented and most enthusiastic for this scheme.
I recall being told that the design was quite literally created in 30 seconds ‘on the back of a fag packet’ by Will, who passed it over to Christope and said “This is what Liverpool needs….!”
The scheme beat some very tough competition to be announced as the winning submission in December 2002 and the following 12-15 months were awash with site visits, design team meetings, presentations, explanations, head scratching, shouting etc. Unfortunately, after escalating costs, the scheme was deemed unviable by the powers that be the costs, design changes/compromises and planning challenges.
I will look back fondly at this stage of my career having met and worked with a truly enthusiastic, passionate and unconventional architect who simply wanted to add something so different to our landscape and wonder how the Fourth Grace would have looked like and been received now if the scheme was allowed to proceed.
When the design was announced, Sir Joe Dwyer, the chairman of Liverpool Vision had hailed the Fourth Grace as a "visible expression of Liverpool's ambitions for the 21st century", but upon the scheme being withdrawn, he continued "I firmly believe that we were right to consider a highly ambitious building which would have added a new dimension to our outstanding waterfront.”
What could, should or might have been………