Top team appointed to redefine Liverpool’s iconic waterfront

Liverpool's Pier Head

A specialist team has been appointed by Liverpool City Council to advise on the developing the city’s world famous waterfront over the next 25 years.

Urban design and landscape architecture firm, West 8, and BDP, the international practice of architects, designers, engineers and urbanists, will create an ambitious and visionary plan for the city’s top asset.

Between them, they bring experience of helping to design and develop major waterfront regeneration projects in New York, Toronto, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hamburg and Rotterdam.

West 8 is based in the port city of Rotterdam and has studios in the Netherlands, North America and Belgium.

Working internationally for more than 35 years, West 8 has established itself as a leading practice with a diverse and multidisciplinary team of in excess of 70 landscape architects, urban designers, engineers, industrial designers and ecologists.

Responsible for countless world class, memorable, and timeless destinations, it has extensive experience in the design and delivery of waterfronts around the world including New York, Toronto, Madrid and Hong Kong.

BDP has a significant track record in Liverpool, designing and delivering the Liverpool One masterplan, the redevelopment of Aintree Racecourse, the new Alder Hey Hospital and Everton FC’s new stadium. BDP, which has offices in Europe, Asia and North America, has also worked on waterfront projects in Shanghai, Melbourne, Hamburg and Christchurch in New Zealand.

Liverpool’s waterfront has been transformed over the past 20 years enabling it to host major international events, from European Capital of Culture in 2008 to Eurovision last May, and now draws in millions of new visitors to the city every year. Popular family-friendly events such as the upcoming River of Light arts festival are also seen as a key element in providing an all-year round cultural offer.

More major regeneration projects are due to come to fruition, most notably a potential significant housing scheme at Festival Gardens to the south of the city and Everton’s new football stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, to the north.

Liverpool City Council is also close to finalising the design and delivery strategy for Kings Dock’s further development, National Museums Liverpool and Tate Liverpool are currently leading on regeneration projects at their Royal Albert Dock buildings, including the historic Canning Dock, and major redevelopment will be coming forward as part of the Liverpool Waters scheme.

Collaborating together, a key task for West 8 and BDP will be to ensure the plan for Liverpool waterfront knits all of these schemes together within a coherent, legible and visionary approach for the future. The team will be supported by consultants at WSP (connectivity and movement) and Ekosgen (social impact).

Designing with local knowledge, the team will undergo engagement with Liverpool’s communities, residents, businesses and key stakeholders, such as Liverpool BID Company, Grosvenor, Tate Liverpool, and major land owners such as Peel Land and Property, National Museum Liverpool, the Canal and River Trust, General Projects, and Liverpool Yacht Club.

While Liverpool’s waterfront is a thriving destination there are challenges around inequality and deprivation in adjoining neighbourhoods, and there are disparities between the demographics of the wards along, and adjoining, the waterfront.

The council intends that this plan will form part of an approach to ensure developments coming forward are more inclusive, and the strategy will identify key challenges and opportunities for change to maximise benefit for communities along and adjacent the waterfront.

In addition, there are key challenges and opportunities around maximising investment opportunities and economic activity in the docks, connectivity and linkages – north/ south and west/east, public realm and quality of place, conservation and enhancement of the natural and historic environment, as well as climate change and the city’s ambition to deliver net zero by 2030.

Liverpool’s draft waterfront plan will have seven defining aims:

  • Maximise the waterfront’s contribution to the city and city region’s economy.
  • Maximise the benefits of investment along the waterfront and ensure any revitalisation will benefit hinterland communities.
  • Enhance connectivity along the waterfront and in-land, promoting active travel and improving links between key areas of activity along the waterfront and adjacent communities.
  • Ensure the conservation and enhancement of the significance of the city’s heritage assets and support the interpretation of Liverpool’s distinct historic maritime environment.
  • Inspire excellence in quality of place and urban design, reconnect people with the water and reinforce the waterfront as a great location for business, homes, play, culture and tourism.
  • Identify key infrastructure needed to support the regeneration of the waterfront.
  • Consider environmental improvements and green infrastructure to improve the public realm and deliver sustainable, creative and innovative solutions to address the impact of climate change

It is intended that the final waterfront plan will be taken forward for adoption as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

This SPD would be informed by Liverpool’s Local Plan, which was adopted in 2022, and will complement surrounding masterplans that are being used to guide the development of neighbouring areas such as the city’s Commercial District and Baltic Quarter.

Nuala Gallagher, Corporate Director of City Development at Liverpool City Council, said: “Liverpool’s waterfront is one of the UK’s most iconic destinations and one of the principal reasons we’re one of the UK’s most visited cities and one of the most filmed in Europe.

“Such is our ambition for the waterfront’s future, we need truly world class experts who lead their fields – and that is exactly what we have in appointing West 8 and BDP and the wider team. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to appoint such esteemed urban placemakers to help shape the next chapter in Liverpool’s waterfront vision and plan.”

Samantha Campbell, Director of Planning at Liverpool City Council, said: “Both West 8 and BDP have a phenomenal track record on designing complex regeneration schemes and have an innate understanding of the role waterfronts have in big cities. Their reputations are truly outstanding and their experience internationally and in Liverpool will be a huge asset to this vital piece of planning development.”

David Rudlin, Urban Design Director at BDP, said: “Liverpool’s waterfront strategy is a great opportunity to work on one the world’s most iconic and recognisable riverside locations.

“A blend of heritage and innovation will create a place that celebrates the city’s rich history, while embracing its potential. BDP has a long affinity with Liverpool as the masterplanner for Liverpool One and with the work we have done on Aintree Racecourse and the new Everton Stadium on Bramley-Moore Dock. We are very excited to be working with West 8 to maximise the potential of important part of the city fabric.”

Martin Biewenga, Partner (and Urban Designer) at West 8, said: “We are very excited for this marvellous opportunity to start working on Liverpool’s phenomenal waterfront. We are inspired by its rich history and heritage, and we see many opportunities to better link Liverpool’s diverse communities to the Waterfront and to have their voice heard.

“Working together, our goal is to create a welcoming and green vision for the waterfront that thrives – no matter the weather. The waterfront is a place for all.”