The Arena and Convention Centre, Liverpool (ACC Liverpool) by Wilkinson Eyre Architects has been officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen. The building, the centrepiece of the city’s regeneration as European Capital of Culture, comprises: an arena with 10,600 seat capacity; a convention centre with a 1,350 seat auditorium; and a 7,000sqm exhibition space.
Wilkinson Eyre Architects’ design for ACC Liverpool unifies the building’s varied functions in a single form, creating a contemporary landmark on Liverpool’s historic waterfront.
Chris Wilkinson, Wilkinson Eyre Architects, commented:
“As the centrepiece of the Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture celebrations and a landmark music, sports and events venue, we wanted to create a new active destination for the city.
The architecture is intended to respond to its extraordinary waterfront context with a low, horizontal sculptural form making a strong contemporary intervention in the historic setting. Its shape contrasts with, yet complements the adjacent Albert Dock buildings and stretching between the two cathedrals on the skyline behind. The flowing curves relate to the fast moving River Mersey in front, with its strong tides, blustery winds and powerful reflected light.”
The building, designed entirely in 3D, is derived from the classic U shape of arena seating. This simple form is repeated to form two elegant shell-like structures (one housing the arena and the other the conference and exhibition centre), hinged by a glazed galleria which forms a public circulation space.
The building is designed in three layers, with the cladding arranged in three sweeping horizontal bands of varied transparency. Clear glass forms the lowest band, with an intermediate layer of patterned translucent glazing doubling as an acoustic barrier, while the upper section of aluminum panelled rainscreen forms the roof. This overhangs as a canopy to provide protection from the elements as well as some additional acoustic properties. The curved surfaces are made of warped planes, dissected by the angular joint lines to create a façade with a complex geometric pattern.
The tight urban site demanded a design that maximised space efficiency in this multi-purpose building. The historic setting, adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Liverpool’s Mercantile City, also meant that the building had to be kept low so as not to obscure views of the two cathedrals behind. Solutions include sinking the building into the ground, innovative stacking methods (unconventional for this type of facility) and flexible internal spaces. For instance, the auditorium stage sits on top of the loading bay, while the auditorium seating and conference rooms are positioned above a 50m by 80m column-free exhibition hall.
The auditorium has a 20m wide stage and features two drum-like revolving seating areas. Each holding 300 seats, these sit on a steel turntable and can rotate 180 degrees providing flexible seating in the form of two separate auditoriums with their own stages.
The building is designed as a box within a box, to meet stringent planning regulations that require no increase in noise levels. Spanning both the arena and convention centre are two curved cantilevered steel-framed roofs. Acoustic isolation is ensured by a continuous 1m-deep air gap between the upper and lower roof skins.
The arena and convention centre aspires to be the most environmentally-friendly facility of its kind in Europe. It was designed to achieve a 'Very Good' BREEAM rating, minimising energy consumption and reducing carbon emissions through heat recovery systems, natural ventilation and heat pumps. ACC Liverpool will produce half the CO2 emissions of a traditional building and will use 20% less electricity. In operation, it will run on renewable ‘green’ energy, some of it generated on-site by five 20-metre low-noise wind turbines that will generate around 10% of the building’s electricity. All other power requirements will come from Scottish power’s ‘green’ portfolio – which means it is generated either by wind or hydro electric power. Rainwater is collected on the roof of the building and then used to flush toilets in the arena, and further waste-recycling initiatives have been employed throughout.
A core aim for the building was to attract people to the waterfront from the city. The building is therefore integrated with a landscaped public piazza and terraces, capable of accommodating large outdoor events. Two hotels, extensive public realm and a 1,600 space multi-storey car park complete the scheme, which is set within a mixed-use community of residential, office, neighbourhood retail, public and open space uses.
The development incorporates a series of exciting new public spaces designed by Gustafson Porter, rich in activity, providing improved access to the waterfront and strengthening connectivity to other nearby attractions.
Architects: Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Structural Engineers: Buro Happold
Services Engineers: Faber Maunsell
Lighting Consultants: Speirs & Major
Acoustics Consultants: Sandy Brown Associates
Landscape Architects: Gustafson Porter
Arena Consultants: Sport Concepts
Conference Centre Consultants: Theatre Project Consultants