Is it a building?

Graz KunsthausFollowing the release of funding for the new Liverpool Museum on Mann Island and the controversy the design has caused, the admirable people at Downtown Liverpool draw interesting and instructive comparisions with the Austrian city of Graz. Itself a European Capital of Culture (2003) and UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is what Downtown describes as an example of how "an outstanding cultural heritage can sit quite happily alongside a modern and dynamic metropolitan outlook". While I believe it is only right that people look closely at the quality of planning and development, a knee-jerk negative response to modernist developments just because they are new and different may benefit from a wider consideration of how cities move forward and interact with the people who use them. And you can't get much more exotic than Graz's Kunsthause, featuring a floating skin, dubbed BIX by the designers, which doubles as a multimedia display panel. I'm not saying planners should advocate dropping something like this into the middle of the Liverpool seafront, but equally just because modernist architecture is used need not necessarily mean Liverpool will lose its World Heritage status or "spoil" its skyline. As Downtown Liverpool notes, there is little negative reaction to the changing and historic skyline of London, despite the erection of giant gerkhins and so on. Over time the capacity is for these new buildings to enhance the city. To do this, planners should not only reference the Victorian and Georgian past. For what seems a more orthodox approach, see A Vision of Europe. As an aside, and linking the cities in another way, AK Graz were Rafa Benitez's first Champions League opponents as Liverpool manager, beating them away and scraping through the home leg on the way to glory in Istanbul. Photo c Graz Tourismus

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