£15m Canning Dock transformation will get under way in late 2024

Canning Dock. Pic: Ant Clausen

The £15m redevelopment of dock space within Royal Albert Dock by National Museums Liverpool has been approved.

The transformation project is focused on Canning Quaysides and Dry Docks and will create a space for education, contemplation and recreation on the south dry dock, built in 1765.

A £10m contribution has been provided from the Government’s £4.8bn round one ‘Levelling Up’ fund.

CGI of South Dry Dock staircase

A new stop wall will be built behind the existing timber gates and a staircase and lift will enable visitors to descend into the historic site for the first time.

Plans also feature a twin-lever footbridge from the Royal Albert Dock across to the Canning quayside.

The wider public realm will be enhanced with level pathways, an open-air events space, and significant improvements to the interpretation of items around the site.

Construction work on the designs, which are being led by architects, Asif Khan Studio, and internationally-renowned artist, Theaster Gates, are due to start in autumn 2024.

Canning Dock’s history is rooted in Liverpool’s deep involvement in transatlantic slavery.

The graving dock was used to clean and repair ships, including those that were destined to traffic enslaved people across the Atlantic to work.

Millions of people died during this crossing, many on board Liverpool-built ships, and on the plantations across the Americas. The transformation will bring this history to the public realm and create a space for contemplation of its significance.

Asif Khan Studio has been working closely with community partners 20 Stories High, Squash, Writing on the Wall and Liverpool Black History Research Group to ensure Liverpool’s communities are engaged and represented in the development of the design and narrative.

Liz Stewart, Head of Museum of Liverpool, which overlooks the Canning Dock area, said: “This is such a transformational project – a once in a lifetime opportunity. Working with local community arts organisations, we have a unique chance to really enhance people’s experience of this space.

“As well as creating an overall cohesive visitor experience, we’re determined to truly represent the profound historic significance of the site.”

CGI of contemplation space within South Canning Dock

She added: “The dry docks and quaysides have such a powerful heritage narrative, and throughout the process of co-production, we’ve ensured the feedback and ideas coming directly from our communities, is integrated into the designs.”

The pedestrian bridge linking the Royal Albert Dock with Canning quayside will create a better journey for visitors, and enhance connectivity between International Slavery Museum, Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool, and the wider waterfront.

The south dry dock has been reimagined by Khan and Gates. This multi-use space will be a ‘destination’ site that will draw on voices from across Liverpool and its historic global footprint.

Architect, Asif Khan, said: “I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to help reach this milestone in the project. This is a giant step toward welcoming people to experience the transformative power of this site and its stories.”

Artist, Theaster Gates, said: “It heartens me that a city is willing to grapple with its complex history and make space for the unfortunate truth of violence against other people.

“Even better, Liverpool is making space for celebration, community, and new histories. I’m excited to be a part of this work.”

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