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Liverpool Museum vs MAXXI – haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

10 October 2011 No Comment

So what’s in a location, anyway? Quite a lot it seems.

Rome’s MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Arts, designed by Zaha Hadid, won the RIBA Stirling Prize 2010, one of industry’s biggest awards. But take a building that looks somewhat similar and site it on the banks of the Mersey and it’s a different story.

MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Arts

zaha-hadid-maxxi-11Image source via Photo: © Iwan Baan, 2011

Museum of Liverpool

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The UK’s MAXXI equivalent

The new £72m Museum of Liverpool – was named runner up in this year’s Carbuncle Cup – the ‘booby prize’ of architecture awarded to the buildings deemed to be blots on our glorious landscape.

When you look at the two buildings side by side, it’s pretty obvious where the similarity is. It looks like the window of the MAXXI has been cut off and transplanted across the seas from Spain to a new home in Merseyside.

Museum of Liverpool

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Distant overseas cousins

There’s no doubt the two buildings could be distant overseas cousins, but whilst it may seem there has been an element of replication in certain areas, the two buildings are years apart in development. Hadid’s MAXXI took over 10 years to complete, whilst the Museum of Liverpool project began in 2005.

MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Arts

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zaha-hadid-maxxi-1

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Largest national museum to have been built in the UK

Danish architects 3XN undoubtedly faced a challenge when designing the new Museum of Liverpool, seeing as it’s not only the largest national museum to be built in the UK in over 100 years, it also sits on a World Heritage site at Pier Head.

The huge MAXXI-style gabled windows at either end of the elevated platforms bring functionality as well as form. They are actually designed to offer dual views of the city and the river across the harbour, effectively ‘sucking in’ the surrounding landscape and landmarks and then bringing them to life within the museum in its role as a structure which unites Liverpool.

And of course, there’s the symmetry. Unlike the MAXXI, each end of the Museum of Liverpool is identical to the other, resulting in a sleek, mirror-image form. Limestone panels on the exterior aid the illusion that the building has somehow been stretched away from its centre.

Unique building in its own right

So whilst at first glance it may appear that we have a ‘rip off’ version of the MAXXI right here on UK shores, what we have is a unique building in its own right, that shares merely one architectural technique with its Mediterranean counterpart.

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And whilst it’s always going to divide architectural opinion, visitors are unlikely to analyse it to the same extent. What they will see is a structure unlike anything they’ve seen before, offering unrivalled views. That’s bound to be enough to ensure its success.

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