the liverpool waterfront legacy


a star-studded team made up of david adjaye, mariam kamara, asif khan, and theaster gates wins the competition for a ‘transformational’ redesign of liverpool’s waterfront canning dock. the winning entry will bring forward the story of the transatlantic slave trade, in which the english port had a major involvement. beginning in the 18th century, the complex site was used to repair and service ships including those reserved for the slave trade — central to the city’s economy at the time.


the competition was hosted by national museums liverpool (NML) and the design concept was the unanimous choice for the jury of local representatives and industry experts.

liverpool waterfrontimages courtesy of national museums liverpool (NML)



a future plan for the canning dock 


national museums liverpool hosted the competition to transform the city’s waterfront canning dock, as part of a larger 10-year plan. the project by david adjaye, mariam kamara, asif khan, and theaster gates, will redevelop the area between the royal albert dock and mann island along with all the waterfront facilities. 


the team focuses on the public realm, including a public art strategy. new bridges will span from the pump house to mann island, while two dry docks will become an educational and cultural experience. meanwhile, the historic martin luther king jr. building will receive a dramatic new entrance. reconnection and accessible recreational routes will play a critical part in the development. maintaining a sensitive approach, the proposal links the past with the present — building upon the significance of the area through a thoughtful response to both the history of the site and its future potential.

liverpool waterfront
the historic martin luther king jr. building will receive a dramatic new entrance



architecture as ‘a storytelling tool’


elevating the stained legacy of the place, the spirit of the competition called entrants to take a ‘joyous and inclusive approach to place-making’ and create a concept that responds to the ‘transatlantic history of the site and ensure black communities are engaged and represented.’


as team member mariam kamara notes, the liverpool waterfront redevelopment is a chance to ‘explore the power of architecture as a storytelling tool’ and that the scheme is ‘an opportunity to pull on the threads that make up the history of the transatlantic slave trade — from africa, across the atlantic to the usa and back to liverpool — to bridge gaps, to exhume memories and ultimately bring to the fore an exciting space for the public to explore and engage with the history of liverpool while firmly facing towards the future.’

liverpool waterfront
the comission includes creating public realm and a public art strategy



asif khan elaborates: ‘history is like the ocean, with all its depths and treachery. looking out from the shore, those waters feel like they belong to us, and yet the sea looks so different from where you stand in the world. history can wash things away one day and brings them back like ghost ships the next. reconciling with history is how we grow as individuals, as communities, and — we believe — is what makes life and cities beautiful.


for national museums liverpool we have formed a different kind of design team — not simply to deliver a project, but to steward a significantly meaningful one into being. this new piece of history will welcome voices from across liverpool and globally from the places and people connected with canning dock.’

mariam kamara, david adjaye, asif khan, theaster gates to redesign liverpool waterfront
the site spans the area between the royal albert dock and mann island



project info:


project title: waterfront transformation: canning dock

architecture: mariam kamara, david adjaye, asif khan, theaster gates

competition host: national museums liverpool (NML)

location: liverpool, UK

status: competition winner