Great George Square (1)
Liverpool L1

Picture by Pat Neill
 

Great George Square was laid out in 1803 and completed by 1836, it was once considered the grandest of Liverpool's proper squares. In the early 20th century the area became home to the expanding port-side communities not only of the Chinese but also of Scandinavians. (There is an imminent refurbishment of 'The Scandinavian Hotel', the large building on the Chinatown corner of Duke Street). Once-grand houses were sub-divided and sub-let and a long decline in the physical fabric of the square's buildings began. The square was largely destroyed by bombing during the 1941 May Blitz. The pedimented section of Georgian houses along the south western side (facing you across the square if you enter from Nelson Street) is all that remains to indicate the original grandeur. Most recently the square has seen dereliction and some post war housing swept away and replaced by new housing. The L1 Partnership, working with the council's City Centre Neighbourhood team oversaw the development of the square, involving the local community in its redesign. Some critics disapprove of the newest housing which ignores the square's Georgian origin. Others concede that recent development has been designed to meet the needs of the community rather than to recreate the past. The low-rise public housing could once be seen as a firebreak against an advancing tide of luxuryapartments but the firebreak will shortly fail as Urban Splash's multi-storey TrBeCa (Triangles Below the Cathedral) development is set to tower over the south and eastern sides. The green space of the square was newly landscaped and reopened in 2004, it is meant to be a focus for existing residents and includes a children's play area.

The square is not level. Around three sides is a boundary which at the lowest corner is a wall standing above waist height. Across the children's playground in the Pitt Street corner the same boundary, set in higher ground, has become no more than a paved edging to the grass. The horizontal surface of the paving/wall is patterned with a 136 word quotation beginning 'People, what are we?' It is from the book Games For The New Years - A DIY Guide To Games For The 21st Century by Bill Harpe. The book was developed as the result of an arts project at The nearby Blackie Arts Centre, in which a series of games were developed as an antidote to T.V. culture. To read the complete poem, you will have to visit the square and look at it for yourself.

Sources:
Pevsner Architectural Guides; Liverpool by Joseph Sharples
Liverpool 800 edited by John Belchem
Bill Harpe in e-mail
theblackie.org.uk
theblackie.org.uk/Press release

Alan Maycock 2008

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