Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Mersey Tunnel-Art Deco Architecture In Liverpool.

The Mersey Tunnel Entrance’s

One of the world’s most ambitious engineering undertakings of the time.

The Mersey tunnels connecting Birkenhead and Wirral with Liverpool.

Opened by King George V on 18th July 1934.

Extensive piling was required in the main vicinity of the entrance of the Liverpool side.
In 1715 gates were built across the mouth of the Pool at Canning Place to give Liverpool its first dock.
 Liverpool had been tidal up to the point of the entrance of the tunnel at that date.
The total cost was 7,750,000 pounds. The Ministry of Transport contributed 2,500,000.
In 1922 a report was put forward to table a motion for the appointment of a committee of six to enquire on a scheme to improve transport facilities
A bridge or a tunnel would be considered.
A bridge was to cost 10,550,000 pounds. This would add superficially and in the event of war would prove a vulnerable target.

The Port of Liverpool would then be inaccessible.

The tunnel was considered the best option. Winston Churchill, then at the Treasury, offered a change of heart and the 2,500,000 was finally agreed as capital for the project and permission was given to charge tolls for a period of no longer than 20 years.

They still charge today and the project flawed from the start has never paid its way.
Herbert Rowse was appointed architect to the Joint Tunnel committee in 1931.
 His former teacher Sir Charles Rielly complained that he had been set a thankless task and not being involved from the outset his work was compromised.

The Haymarket entrance had been sited wrong in his opinion, slightly to one side of the axis with St George’s Hall. 
Rowse had been set the task of decorating a hole in the ground.

“The engineer too often thinks he can call in a Architect to cover up his mistakes to add pretty things to hide them”.
Said the Liverpool Review in August 1934. I have to agree how much more symmetrical the whole area would look today if a proper process had been undertaken.
Rowse showed again that the style needed was an Art Deco style, which fitted in perfectly with interpretations of speed and function. 
This style also shows its American masculinity, which Rowse was also familiar with. Walter Gropius praised the functional dado of black glass and stainless steel, which ran through the tunnel for its simplicity. 
The Pegasus ornamentation sum up “a mood” of the time.

It looks almost like an Egyptian scarab design.
 Rowse would go Egyptian with The Georges Dock Ventilation.
The lights look as if Edgar Brandt had designed them in France.

The Birkenhead Entrance still retains its Pylon but the Pylon from the Liverpool side is said to be buried in a Council Yard.

 Wayne Colquhoun c2015

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