A 50m high illuminated tower has won the international design competition for the proposed Mersey Observatory on Crosby beach. The design by Duggan Morris Architects emerged as the frontrunner in thousands of votes and comments from local people, and was the unanimous choice of the judging panel.
Ten thousand people voted in an online poll, with Duggan Morris most popular on 47 per cent of the votes. The poll on the five short listed designs was run by the Crosby Herald.
The design by Duggan Morris is unlike anything else in the country and would be one of Merseyside's most recognisable landmarks. It beat four other short listed proposals by Studio 8 Architects, Farrell & Clark, Ellis Williams and Phos Architects, following an international design competition that attracted over 90 entries from all over the world.
Duggan Morris will now begin to develop the next stage of detailed designs for the project.
Joe Morris, director of Duggan Morris Architects, said: "The setting for the Mersey Observatory is entirely unique both geographically and culturally. The challenge was to create something to complement the extraordinary setting as well as having sufficient gravitas to act as a 'beacon' in its own right."
Unusually, the design calls for two complementary structures: a viewing tower and a separate café and exhibition centre. Duggan Morris calls them the 'lamp' and 'bowl'. The Observatory tower is designed to be illuminated from the inside and contains two viewing platforms giving stunning 360-degree views over Liverpool, Crosby beach and the River Mersey. A lift would carry people to an enclosed, all-weather viewing platform, and further up to an open air viewing platform atop the tower.
The second, lower building contains the support facilities including reception, information point, exhibitions, restaurant, café and toilets, as well as a rooftop viewing 'amphitheatre' intended for closer views of the bird sanctuary.
Ian McChesney, RIBA Adviser commented: "The jury took little time in selecting a winner. The competition saw a variety of approaches, but it was the more modest and poetic approach of Duggan Morris - developed in great detail - that prevailed."
Ian Hamilton Fazey, chair of the Waterloo Residents Association and also a member of the judging panel, said: "Anyone who has had the opportunity to go on to the roof of the existing radar tower knows that there is one single "Wow! factor" that it is impossible to miss.
"It is simply the astonishing delight of emerging into the daylight and suddenly being confronted with an amazing 360-degree panorama of cityscape, waterscape, the mighty Mersey, Liverpool's hard-working dockland, a nature reserve teeming with birds, the Gormley statues on Crosby beach, and the view across the Wirral and Liverpool Bay to the Clwyd hills, the Great Orme's head at Llandudno, and Snowdonia.
"The judging panel is convinced that Duggan Morris brings a balance of youth, enthusiasm and professional experience that will give us the best of all worlds – an innovative, 21st-century design with a professional team of all the talents capable of delivering it."
The panel was impressed by the team assembled by Duggan Morris to deliver the project, which includes experienced consultants with considerable track records, who will advise on engineering design, cost control, ecology and environmental issues. The quantity surveyor for the project recently finished work on the new Liverpool arena and convention centre.
Walter Menzies, chief executive of the Mersey Basin Campaign and chair of the judging panel, said: "The architects immediately grasped the extraordinary tourist and visitor potential of the location and their design would be a spectacular window on the waterfront and gateway to the Liverpool city region.
"We were all impressed by the professionalism and commitment of Duggan Morris and the sheer verve with which they conveyed their enthusiasm for the project. The judges were unanimous in their decision that the Duggan Morris entry should be the winner."
The judging panel thanked local people for their comments and said that their continued support will be vital in securing funding.
Ian Hamilton Fazey said: "One interesting statistic from the public consultation is that 95 per cent of the people who commented supported the Observatory concept – less than five per cent attacked it per se. The vast majority of people realise that any public money for this project is simply not transferable: it is a case of "use it or lose it."
Almost 300 comment cards, emails and letters were received on the five short listed designs, and over 300 people logged on to a live blogcast of one of the open forums held with members of the judging panel. Around 1,500 people visited the three exhibitions of the designs held in Crosby, Seacombe and Liverpool, or visited the website.
The announcement of Duggan Morris' winning design marks the end of the first phase of development for the Observatory project.
Walter Menzies said: "We're exactly where we wanted to be at this stage in the project – a fabulous design selected from a successful competition, and some hugely encouraging support and enthusiasm from local people.
"But now the real work begins. The architects must develop their preliminary designs to a much more detailed level, and crucially the team behind the project must put together the funding package that will make the Mersey Observatory a reality."
The project is led by the Mersey Basin Campaign and backed by a strong partnership that includes the Northwest Regional Development Agency, Mersey Waterfront and Peel Holdings.
People can find out more by visiting www.merseyobservatory.com