The Students on one of their visit days at the Williamson’s tunnels at both Mason Street and Paddington sites with the Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels
Whilst FoWT’s main aim has always been to save the Williamson’s Tunnels, we also strive to share the history and knowledge we have gained of Joseph Williamson and his underground world with everyone.
Part of this is helping schools and universities where we can, providing a hands on experience and location for students to see and use the Tunnels as a backdrop for their studies ranging from Archaeology, Architecture, Social History to Media Studies.
We are pleased to have once again worked closely with Dr Nick Webb, Lecturer in Architecture at the Liverpool School of Architecture, Liverpool University, who on this occasion brought his 3rd year Architecture students to the Tunnels for their assignment, which was to design a visitor centre for Mason Street.
Take a look below at some of the students’ excellent designs.
The Liverpool School of Architecture’s third year Heritage Related Design Studio have been working with the Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels to produce design ideas for a hypothetical new visitor centre on the site of Williamson’s house, Mason Street, with an aim to inspire potential future proposals. In early October, we visited the site for guided tours by the volunteers, as well as a talk. Laser scanning was used to map the site, including the tunnels, to better comprehend how to place new design interventions. These scans will be shared with FoWT and the wider public with the aim of fully understanding the three-dimensional configuration of the tunnels at Williamson’s house, as well as the Paddington site.
The Heritage Related Design Studio was established at the University of Liverpool by Dr Nick Webb, who investigates the use of digital tools to enhance understanding of historic architecture (see www.tracingthepast.org.uk), and Dr Ataa Alsalloum, who researches heritage-led sustainable urban regeneration. As the studio name suggests, we focus on the challenges of designing in the context of significant heritage assets such as the tunnels. The Mason Street site we worked on includes the remains of Williamson’s original house façade, exposed kitchen area and associated rooms, as well as the network of tunnels below ground. These presented particular challenges to the studio, as consideration had to be given on how to carefully introduce a new visitor centre, whilst retaining and enhancing the existing built heritage. Ideas drew on this tangible heritage, as well as intangible tales we encountered via studies of the site’s rich history.
Designs included exhibition areas, a film room, seminar room, café, shop and tunnel link. Staff areas, including a permanent space for the FoWT volunteers were also incorporated. A range of design ideas were proposed by students including sweeping roof structures to create bold and contemporary forms inspired by the original tunnel designs, ramped subterranean entrances giving direct access to the kitchen area, as well as vast atriums overlooking the exposed ruins. The Heritage Related Design Studio tutor team consists of Stephen Graham, David Raynor, Torsten Schmiedeknecht and Nick Webb, with consultancy from Ataa Alsalloum, Han-Mei Chen and Stuart Gee. Whilst only a small sample of work is shown here, we would like to thank all students in the studio for their hard work and dedication.
By: Dr Nick Webb
BA(Hons) MArch PhD ARB FHEA