The Art & Design Academy was conceived as a landmark building, reinforcing Liverpool’s international status as the former Capital of Culture. Although primarily a University building, public accessibility to the new facilities and maximising the interaction with staff, students and associated businesses was another major objective. The spaces accessible to the public include exhibition spaces, gallery, a 350 seat auditorium and café/bar as well as a public external space and sculpture court. The Academy is on a site adjacent to a major landmark of Liverpool, the Grade II* listed Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.
The building is conceived as a serpentine form that bends and curves to reflect the shape of the site, aligning primarily with the Cathedral and with curved ends to Mount Pleasant and Brownlow Hill, creating a strong visual and physical cohesion to an under-developed site.
The splayed form of the building when viewed from Mount Pleasant creates a sense of arrival, offering a visual complement to its historic setting while still making its own distinctive architectural statement. The space created between the Academy and the Cathedral allows for the formation of a new landscaped public space.
The main entrance aligns with the west axis of the Cathedral and draws students, staff and visitors into a central atrium. This space connects both upper and lower ground levels with views through and out of the building towards the Cathedral. Unified by a dramatic staircase this atrium is the social heart of the building, facilitating interaction between the academic and public facilities.
The lower ground and ground floor facilities are primarily dedicated to the public spaces showcasing the Academy's creative talent, through the galleries, exhibition, multi-purpose space, project room and studios. These public spaces, including the Tate café, open and spill out on to external spaces, encouraging maximum activity outside as well as inside the building. The upper storeys are set back to create tiered roof terraces which afford views across the city.
The studios and teaching spaces, located on the ground and upper floors, are designed to be as flexible as possible, maximising light, space and energy efficiency. The studios are expressed on the elevations by splayed windows, which admit controlled north light and, by virtue of their orientation, some shaded western light.
The building profile with its stepped roof terraces responds to views from the Cathedral and reduces the scale towards the adjacent housing. Reading as a roof pavilion, the top floor is recessed from the perimeter and set back from the north and south ends to take advantage of the roof terraces and also to break down the overall mass of the building.
The LJMU Art & Design Academy won an RIBA Award 2010.