Regenerating the Albert Dock brought with it the enormous challenge of reinventing a place which meant so much to one generation, but little to another. Originally built in 1839, the Albert Dock heralded an era of British dominance in sea trade, at a time when Liverpool was the country’s second city.
However, with time came new technology, and the country’s dependence on cargo boat trade soon faded. The Albert Dock closed for business in 1972 and, in the 1980s, Liverpool was curbed by its poor image. The Albert Dock lay derelict, still disfigured by the Blitz and the region’s spiralling economy.
MDC, leading the charge of the dock’s rebirth, hoped its redevelopment would kick-start Liverpool’s transformation, both physically and mentally. The Albert Dock Lecture Series explains: “The aim was to create a new sense of place around the water space and wider dockland setting, but one that respected its history.”
The major regeneration of the Albert Dock from derelict industrial place to one of leisure and tourism became a springboard for a wider communications campaign to attract new investment to Liverpool. It also began the process of improving relationships between the public and private sectors in Liverpool, an important and often overlooked element of sustainable placemaking.
When reinventing places, a vital factor in good placemaking is maintaining a respect for the past. The regeneration of the Albert Dock did not build over its past, but built with it, incorporating its rich heritage at every stage. Today, much of the structure and key elements unchanged, with nautical references from the past dotted throughout. This is a big factor in its tourism pull.
The Albert Dock’s journey from dilapidation into a place for community, tourism and civic pride is a great example of regeneration and placemaking at its finest. Developers understood the emotional power of keeping one foot in the dock’s seafaring past and the importance of placing one firmly in the future.
“Before, it was a blank space on the map,” says the Albert Dock Lecture Series. “There were no memories. Now it is iconic and gives us a strong visual identity.”