1: Hi Adrian, Can you tell us a little about yourself......
I am originally from Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire. I came to Liverpool University to study architecture and graduated in 1981. I lived in and around the Sheil Road area during my early years in the city, so I know the Kensington, Tuebrook and Old Swan areas well. I now live in Childwall. My wife Terina is Chinese and we have twin boys Andrew and Iain aged 6.
For much of my architectural career I have worked in the field of community architecture. I worked on many of the housing co-operative projects pioneered by community groups in Liverpool in the 1980s and early 90s. During this time I was project architect for much of the Eldonian Village development in Vauxhall. I also project managed the Chinese Ceremonial Arch scheme in Liverpool’s Chinatown in 1999/2000. In 2001 I set up Griffiths Thompson Partnership with my fellow director Paul Griffiths.
2: Can you please tell us more about the Lister Steps Hub project and the work you are doing?
I have worked on this project with Lister Steps since early 2012 when the Andrew Carnegie Library was first advertised for sale by Liverpool City Council. It was natural for Lister Steps to be interested in taking over this iconic building when it became available because they are currently located so close to it. An initial architectural feasibility study showed that the library building is well suited to the new uses Lister Steps are proposing. Griffiths Thompson Partnership has supported Lister Steps throughout their campaign to acquire the building and secure funding for its restoration. This work has culminated in a successful Stage 1 Heritage Grant bid to Heritage Lottery Fund which should ultimately see approx £4.5 of HLF money invested in restoring the building to its former glory. At present Griffiths Thompson Partnership is working with Liverpool City Council on a programme of essential “holding works” and repairs. This will prevent further deterioration of the historic building fabric and the spread of dry rot until the main building works funded by HLF are commenced on site.
3: How did you get involved with Lister Steps?
Through my involvement with Friends of Newsham Park who were also interested in the future of the library when it came up for sale.
4: From an architectural perspective, what are you thoughts on regenerating, conserving and reusing historic buildings?
Very important. Most towns and cities develop naturally and sometimes quite randomly over time. Old buildings and sites are the jigsaw pieces that form an important part of this development process. They are a key part of the urban fabric of any town or city. Every effort should be made to safeguard and make use of the best historic buildings for this reason. Good buildings are landmarks and give areas of our towns and cities an identity. They hold important memories and associations for people who have used them. Many of these buildings are very flexible and, with a little imagination, can be adapted to a change of use when required. From an ecological point of view it makes sense to adapt and re-use old buildings where practicable, rather than knocking them down and starting all over again each time.
5: What do you find interesting/special/unique about the former ‘The Andrew Carnegie Library’?
This is a great building which I fell in love with when I first set foot inside it. The history of the library movement in Liverpool and Andrew Carnegie’s involvement with this is a fascinating one and the Lister Drive Library is a key part of this story. It is the building’s links with and its importance to the local community that I find particularly interesting. The historic photographs of the building in use are fascinating.
The design of the building is quite grand but at the same time I find the building very warm and welcoming. It is located on a very generous and prominent corner site and makes a big statement in the area. However, what really excites me about this building is its clever use of natural light. So many of the existing windows and roof lights have been boarded up for years. I have never seen the interior of the building in the way it was originally intended. I can’t wait to see these large areas of glass reinstated during the proposed restoration works so that the building is once again flooded with natural light. Wow!
6: Finally, what are your thoughts on Lister Steps plans to regenerate the building and reuse it as a community hub?
Absolutely brilliant and so appropriate. The building was originally a gift from Andrew Carnegie to the city of Liverpool and this particular local community. How appropriate then that Lister Steps will be gifting this facility back to the local community and the city once the restoration works are completed some 100 years or so later.