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The Role of the Icon. St. George's Hall and its relationship with the city.

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Andrew Aitken
University of Liverpool | UK
The very nature of Liverpool has degenerated over the last fifty years. This has prompted a concerted attempt to reinvent the city's image. Attempts at regeneration manifested themselves in the form of Will Alsop's proposed Fourth Grace. Its subsequent abandonment in 2004 however, came at a time when the validity of a new iconic building with no properly defined function was being questioned. Its cancellation on economic grounds questioned the value that such buildings have in regeneration led cities such as Liverpool.

St. George's Hall is the archetypal 'white elephant'. Economically it is not viable. Functionally it is not viable. Its primary use is now defunct and it is now kept open with a series of alien functions. Yet throughout the last 150 years it has played an important role within Liverpool. Through my dissertation, I question the role the Hall plays in Liverpool today. I examine its location, its projected image, the myths surrounding it, and whether it has provided a greater return for the city than merely economics.

The dissertation considers historical analysis to question the validity of iconic buildings in modern day Liverpool, while connections are made between the role of St. George's Hall within Liverpool and the role of Liverpool within the British Empire. The evolving image of the Hall as an icon provides an insight into the value placed upon such buildings both upon its completion and today.

Andrew Aitken

Puzzled by the exact history of the abandoned 4th Grace project, Andrew realised that other problematic buildings form part of Liverpool’s chequered architectural history, notably St George’s Hall. He has thoroughly investigated its conception, location and the models which its young architect followed. His maps of how the site was assembled are an original contribution to local history, while his careful analysis of the progress of the Hall show how a white elephant emerged from a self-defining civic pride in a new way. Untainted by the canonical approach to architectural history he treats the story of the Hall as a parallel to the perhaps foolish search for 21st century icons.

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