Lynch Architects

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St James' Cemetery Liverpool

This project was produced in a workshop that Lynch Architects ran at The Liverpool School of Architecture in January 2019, and is a collaboration between us and a small group of 2nd and 3rd year students at the university. We had for a long time been fascinated by the surreal juxtaposition of Gilbert Scott's magnificent 20th century Gothic cathedral, and the deep, dark park beside it. St James' Cemetery originated as a stone quarry, and then became a pleasure garden, the ramps perfect for promenading Victorians. In the 20th century - through a series of opaque bureaucratic decisions -  the ramps became inaccessible from the upper level of the city, and as a result the Anglican Cathedral lacks a presence on Hope Street. Our proposals seek to address this situation: a new portal, derived from the rotunda of The Huskisson Memorial sat within the graveyard, is to be duplicated twice, and placed at the head of the ramps, connecting the underworld of the cemetery to the horizon of the city in a profoundly practical and symbolic way. A long colonnade, derived from Alberti's stoa at the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence, creates a new edge to the upper level of the park, acting as a foreground and classical threshold between the red sandstone cathedral and the Georgian city grid. We think of this project as another manifestation of Civic Ground, something in-between landscape, architecture, city and art.

“Civic” does not refer to a use class as such, i.e. a town hall, but to something which orients architecture towards the shared conditions of urbanity. The term “common ground” gets close to the original meaning of “civilitas”, which more properly means civic order. Its use in English law as common public grazing land, and its survival as “digital commons”, suggests its participatory character. However, the ground itself is not simply a matter of property or of one’s “rights” to use it, nor is it just a metaphor or a philosophical construction, but it is the basis and grounds for life itself. Martin Heidegger claimed that its central orienting importance for human affairs might be best described as “motive” (what Aristotle called “mythos” or plot in his Poetics) and wrote that: “Motive is a ground for human action.... All different grounds are themselves based on the principle of ground. All that is has a ground.” The term “motive” fuses together the representational and practical aspects of architecture as the expression of civic ground.

Patrick Lynch (introduction to Civic Ground: Rhythmic Spatiality and the Communicative Movement Between Architecture, Sculpture and Site, Artifice Books on Architecture, London, 2016)

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