The ability to think and act big has been a characteristic of Liverpool since the early 1700s, when it built the world’s first enclosed commercial wet dock. By the end of the 19th century it had become one of the wonders of Britain, with an architectural identity that surpassed all other provincial cities. The architect who did most to maintain that tradition in the 20th century was Herbert Rowse, whose monumental projects include India Buildings, Martin’s Bank, the Mersey Tunnel and the Philharmonic Hall, all built between 1923 and 1939. A star pupil of Charles Reilly at the Liverpool School of Architecture, Rowse stamped his mark on the city and, in spite of his success, never abandoned it for the metropolis, as most other architects of that period did. This enlightening volume in the Twentieth Century Architects series assesses the work of an architect who sought not to create a new architecture from scratch, but one that was inspired by historical precedent. Yet he also embraced aspects of modernism with masterly effect, such as with the massive ventilation towers for the Mersey Tunnel which enliven the city’s famous skyline.
This article originally appeared in IHBC's Context 164 (Page 54), published by The Institute of Historic Building Conservation in May 2020. It was written by Context’s reviews editor, Peter de Figueiredo.
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