The Role of High Streets in Liverpool

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‘Autonomous Landscapes’ focuses on high streets as a component of urban development structure. It highlights how streets shape the urban fabric. The importance of these activities in fostering the appreciation of the streets and plazas for analysis about relevant disciplines and other trending factors such as globalisation.  Policies, demographic alterations and their role in managing the functions of these streets are among the issued talked. The research discusses the relationship between architecture and built environment planning and design components discussed in detail and their impact in guiding the direction and form of urban centers.

Liverpool city is selected due to its significance as a heritage city with numerous high street designs. The reason behind the upcoming of these streets has been stated. We examine the effect of globalisation in influencing the current spatial structure of the city. High streets, their preferred locations, and factors affecting their functionality additionally described concerning the whole metropolitan area. The role played by different stakeholders in shaping the creation of these regions is highlighted. Liverpool One development project is analysed as a successful case study of the sustainable high street and shopping malls functionality efficiently intertwined. The transition guiding movement between the two areas is the focus of the case study. Also, theories supporting the existence and the functionality of the urban regions and their role in creating the need for high streets are recognised and deliberated. Challenges and recommendations facing the relationship between high streets and commercial hubs are discussed.

Autonomous Landscapes


To understand the functionality of high streets and the evolution of social and commercial activities along the streets is what has formed and fostered the appreciation of the ever-developing architectural culture of most societies. Therefore, there is a need to bring insight into how streets shape the urban and residual landscapes, specifically its form and fabric, and its general impact on the public realm. Design and planning of centres such as Liverpool One, Liverpool, has resulted in re-invigoration and reinvention by revitalising this sections. Therefore, attaining sustenance as the streets form an independent organism with different components serving the needs of the surrounding population.

A combination of long-term alterations in demographics, transportation network and policies relating to these critical components of an urban area, has helped in guiding the development of these elements over decades. Also, regulations accompanied by short-term effects of economic crisis and online retail have led to a drastic change in urban areas. Understanding these substantial shifts and formulating effective resolutions is what planners, architects and urban designers should emphasise in their development aspirations.

The multifaceted nature of town centre routines beyond dealing in retail. The development has led to the need for land use management activities through the involvement of different stakeholders groups. The most common significant impact relating to the case is the prioritisation of centres and utilising them as a guide for investment. Since streets and plazas form an essential part of the urban realm, there is a need to improve them. Improving the streets and squares can be done through management of the built environment and furnishing the ‘streetscape’; funding for managers of town centres; investment in ‘crowd-pulling’ factors to enhance the beauty of the high street/town centre and to support spillover expenditure from customers.

Architecture and design for the built environment have also been a mirror to the social order through its various effects on sectors such as a social function, shelter, art, technology, science, politics, economics, etc. Architecture signifies a more natural reflection of the current affairs impacting the political, social and economic sectors. Moreover, the society is shifting towards independence (a neighbourhood that is supplemented with all the necessary needs and furnished with adequate resources that certify it to be a town centre). The transformation of the built environment is intertwined with the evolution of architecture and its impact towards the needs of the current society (a sustainable community).

The architecture also defines a city’s/town centre’s form and fabric. The layout of buildings and distribution of land uses within a facade lead to the overall evolution of the final shape of the area. Also, the design of streets within a centre defines the level of activity that can be achieved. Architecture has been revolutionised to dictate the urban environment and lead to growth

Liverpool the City

Liverpool is the fifth largest metropolitan in the UK. Original streets of the 16th Century formed the basis of the city’s structure. These were Bank, Dale, Juggler, Chapel, Whiteacre, Moor and Castle Street (Picton, 1875, p. 9). These streets were combined to form the letter H. The rich architectural nature of the city is a worldwide phenomenon. However, achievement of this status was not an easy task for the city facing numerous development challenges.

Liverpool had enormous trade activities including handling cargo, raw materials, and coal during the 19th century. More people wanted to move to Liverpool. To shop and invest in the city as it offered vast opportunities and investment potential. The increased population and demand led to the construction of massive buildings. Therefore, creating an imbalance between open areas and developed the land. The built form completely overshadowed the open spaces, green belts, and public areas.

A city functions as an organism. Open spaces and built areas to support its functionality. The lack of these open spaces became the beginning of Liverpool’s suffocation. Most people who needed the serenity and peaceful nature of life resorted to moving towards the outskirts of the town forming suburban settlement patterns dominated by small retail centres.

Plans are being made to integrate the day-to-day activities of Liverpudlian’s with the upcoming urban trend. The lime street in the 1890’s was among the best illustrations of these plans. It shows much appreciation of the value of integrating open spaces within the tall buildings. St George’s hall surrounded the street to the left side and Walker art gallery to the south. The statues of Disraeli, Queen Victoria, and Prince Albert in the middle of the street is a focal point. These focal points seem to guide the development of the surrounding neighborhood. Current development projects also appear to emanate from these areas moving outwards.

The number of immigrants in the city drastically rose after the 2nd

World War resulting in an expansion of housing in most sub-urban houses. The increase in population decreased voids that could be used for public use. The move to expand residences further resulted in a shift towards creating aesthetic public realms within open streets and plazas. Meetings, festivals, and other forms of interactions spilt into the streets. Therefore, proper planning of had to take place. Strategies to manage the consequences of high street activities had to be implemented and monitored. These interventions to the reclamation a positive image of the Liverpool (Roberts, 2012, p.11). The image of a Liverpool was restored. Furthermore, the new appearance integrated socio-economic within modernised structures.

Effect of Globalization on Spatial Structure.

The development of activities and businesses on an international scale demands for the creation of self-sustainable urban areas. The sustainability is necessitated by demand for diverse abilities to satisfy the enormous population within these areas. Thus resulting, to the transformation of cities along various development guidelines. These policies target the provision of a holistic approach meant to develop unique infrastructural systems, redefined urban fringe, and controlled urbanisation challenges.

Therefore, making the society of today is indebted to safer and bustling streets. Streets that appreciate and incorporate the cultural and social aspects of life, therefore, considered ideal by the users. Eventually, the streets become a realignment of the town centre and its significant activities to reflect on the people.

Globalisation, through ethical considerations, has transformed architectural practice to be more than a professional screen for the activities of government and corporate clients. It has raised the need to accommodate the few marginalised groups into the design concepts implemented.

Liverpool’s historical essence in creating streetscapes and Eco-friendly transport corridors can only be amplified if this approach in planning current and future urban areas continues to form part of its structure.

Mall / high street.

Various urban centres in Liverpool are continuously becoming multipurpose. The customer experience in these towns, in turn, becoming a contentious topic among researchers and scholars. The problem facing urban planners and designers right now is the idea of making the streets social and utilitarian for shopping purposes. The same thoroughfares should be able to support other activities such as leisure and entertainment.

The way that people perceive and use streets has also fundamentally changed. Planners, architects, and designers continuously evaluate their arrangement of these areas not only to be the ideal way towards shopping malls but also resemble them in their functionality. To address the problems that are facing the different groups involved in the spatial arrangement of uses of existing urban areas two aspects have to be considered. These are consumer demand and experience in the town.

After spatially understanding the functionality of urban areas, proposals can be made. These plans should, however, aim at developing of high streets in urban centres and championing for their survival through mitigation of possible challenges. The success of such areas is feasible despite the stiff competition arising from ever growing e-commerce. The high streets are evolving to become what both scholars and non-scholars are referring to as the heart and mind of a city. The latter is mainly due to the remarkable shopping experiences and a conducive business environment for all.

High streets have been designed to accommodate both commercial, leisure, and transportation utilities. They also have the setting of a shopping mall where all products and services including leisure activities are located within the same arena. The streets are also buffered by high commercial buildings and sometimes can have a public space on one side. Paid parking lots for personal vehicles help in accommodating those who drive to these areas. Good landscapes define the high streets. Accessibility of the malls and shopping centres’ served by these streets is enhanced through creating access areas on both ends for smooth flow of traffic. High streets form landmarks known by many in any society. Additionally, their strategic central location facilitates their use as guidance to accessing different areas.

The high streets located close to populous open spaces, highways and streetscapes create an urban fabric that serves as sub-regional markets (Dawson, 1998, p.1). They offer opportunities for self-employment for businesses. People operating in these areas are not restricted on how they carry out their business although they are supposed to be coordinated to maintain uniformity. Specific unique products are sold along high streets. Domination of these sales by retail activities makes it more comfortable and affordable for those who cannot afford to buy products and services from high-end markets (Dawson, 1998, p.4). High streets have typically become a destination for many shoppers. They operate even in odd hours and thus has made it easy for people to shop without being confined to specific timelines. The services and products available in one complex shopping mall can be effortlessly located on one street.

The linkage of the services and business in high streets creates a consistent urban form. It also bridges the gap between other transportation means and these retail complexes. High streets towns are drivers of the local economy despite the fact that it is hard to measure the amount of income that is generated from the high streets. High streets are mainly designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and offer adequate space for carrying out numerous activities. The need for urban areas to sustain its population through the transformative streetscapes that enhance usage of these areas is the notable development of the 21st century.

Liverpool One the shopping centre.

Liverpool one shopping mall is a distinct structure that cost a staggering 1 billion British pounds to construct. The mall is located in the heart of Liverpool and covers approximately 42 acres of land that was initially under-utilised. The development consists of 30 differently designed building typologies in the different streets facades of Liverpool (Liverpool ONE). Unique designs characterise the street’s identity. The architects who designed the different streets emphasised on creating an ideal streetscape. A feasibility study revealed that Liverpool’s reputation as a regional shopping centre was under threat (Daramola, 2009, p. 304). The council of Liverpool proposed the development of Liverpool One as a way of protecting and improving life at the city centre. A move that completely altered the perception of both local residents and visitors. The project was initially named the Paradise Project because the council intended to create a paradise in the city centre. The technology, fashion, and food altogether form the paradise. A dream destination for shopping, and a place where one can get a delicious meal. Once all this is done, one can head up to the rooftops and appreciate the beautiful scenery of the city. The landscaped areas helped in amplifying the functionality of mega malls and softening the hard texture.

The multi-billion project expanded over time and led to the eclipsing of many more projects. These plans came up as a result of the regeneration process. Some of these projects included the lime street gateway, the rope walks, the Baltic triangle and the edge lane gateway and areas of the Hannover Street. These are among the major high street areas in the world. Liverpool one project is a mixed-use development and has one of Europe’s tallest group skyscrapers.

Liverpool One is a modern-day open-air shopping mall. It is famously known as the top destination for leisure and the leading retail outlets in Europe. The shopping complex is located in the existing streets of Liverpool and adjacent to the iconic Liverpool waterfront. The waterfront acts as a focal point and a link between natural and human-made elements of the complex. The mall offers different services including places to shop, leisure parks, restaurants, a jungle rumble golf course and eateries creating an autonomous landscape. Furthermore, it has over 170 bars and stores, Odeon cinema with 14 screens. High streets such as John Lewis, Michael Kors, Flannels, and Zara are also available. High-end beauty shops such as the Beauty Bazaar is a one-stop shop for anything related to beauty. The mall also offers over 3,000 car parking spaces for the customers. Everything is provided under one roof and arranged in a way that they function together with as minimal conflict as possible (Liverpool ONE).

Service Delivery

After one long day of shopping, a person has a wide variety of restaurants and bars. There are over 35 resting and entertainment hubs to choose. The food is fancy and glorious; there is everything for everyone. All ages’ gender considered.  The architects of the complex were diverse and inclusive by putting in mind the demands of the clients. The management of Liverpool one went further to include exciting events and programs all year long. The inclusion of these events ensures the vibrancy of the complex and the surrounding neighbourhood is maintained. There is a fictional schedule at the complex to show the events that are occurring through the calendar year. Whether one wants to go shopping, enjoy delicious meals or have a cocktail in one of the bars, the best place to be is Liverpool One. All these services perfectly attain comprehensive and sustainable functionality in service delivery. The numerous dockside hotels and restaurants located in front of the water provide an aesthetic view of Liverpool City.


Liverpool one is accessible by foot, personal cars and public transport. Private cars drivers can use the preset postcode L1 8LT that will take them to one of the three Q parks in Liverpool One near the Albert Dock. The mall is further accessible by train as well. Liverpool One convenient location from Lime Street station makes its accessibility a fifteen minutes’ walk. There are also connections to James Street and moor field streets that are minutes away and also, other national lines to more locations in Liverpool. The streets, roads and lanes have an appealing landscaped scenery and rest points where people can interact and carry out their business.

The mall is also accessible by bus. The complex has its Bus station that has real-time departure times and links with the National Express coach services. Those who prefer to cycle, Liverpool One has citywide bike stations that are extensively connected through John Lewis, derby square, and Chavasse Park. Cycling and walking along the appealing high streets is encouraged as if nurtures environmental conservation, creates an unforgettable experience, prevents congestion and saves costs.

Neighbourhood Character

The shopping complex is located conveniently to various neighbourhoods that complement the operations its operations. The following are some significant areas;

The Liverpool waterfront; the waterfront is an iconic, aesthetically breathtaking and a national heritage site recorded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is a place no one wants to miss when they visit Liverpool. With shopping entertainment and leisure located at Liverpool One, Liverpool waterfront provides a stylish and vibrant tone not only to the Complex but the entire city. The wharf stands majestically along the Mersey River and has a canal linkage and a network of docks. Similar to Liverpool One, the waterfront offers a variety of events. Therefore, the two complement each other. The proximity in location between them further amplifies this role. The beautiful scenery of both Liverpool One and the Waterfront can be seen in unison from the image below.

Fig 1: Liverpool One and Waterfront

Museums and art pieces: Liverpool is known for its rich heritage and cultural potential globally (Daramola-Martin, 2009, p.302). Taking a close look at the monuments, one can see the world-class contemporary pieces of art and museums blending well with the architecture of the waterfront. These statues are major conservation areas that give all the other aspects within their proximity cultural significance.

Historic Danny Adamson steam vessel. This 1903 vessel nicknamed Danny attracts massive tourist’s traffic. Danny is a major tourist attraction due to its rich historical background starting from its luxurious design to the unique interior decorations from ancient times. Danny was a naval patrol boat from the first world war and later used in the second world war as a firefighting boat. It is the oldest steam vessel in the United Kingdom. People come to float, voyage and celebrate different events at the vessel. The vessel offers day and night voyage from canning dock to selected docks like Elsmere port and Salford. The vessel is also a museum on its own, based on stories and past workers. People come to a vessel to learn about this rich culture. The vessel complements the architectural uniqueness of the Liverpool One, tourists who visit Liverpool One for shopping or leisure can also supplement the trip with a visit to the Danny.

The people who visit Liverpool One visit through the local agency cavern tours, which is the leading tour operator in Merseyside. Carven city tours operate the magical mystery tour ticket office and run on a daily basis as from 10 am. Tourist groups can book mini-busses to move them around the city as they experience the beautiful sceneries and appreciate the architectural design masterpiece of high streets.

Analyst Theories

Organisation within urban metropolitans regarding shopping in high streets is based on the way the urban landscape is organised. Urban areas are a combination of multidisciplinary knowledge aimed at attaining sustainability at all levels. That is social, economically, environmentally and culturally efficiency. This sustenance in the functionality of urban areas has been explained by several principles and theories aimed at enhancing our understanding of the areas we live in and how we integrate with these areas while going about our day-to-day activities.

These intellectual roots combine knowledge from urban geography, sociology, economics, psychology, anthropology political science, and many more disciplines.

Christaller’s Central Place theory

The central place theory by Walter Christaller (1993) is based on his analysis of the settlement patterns in Germany. He analysed the relationship between the varying sizes of settlement patterns and the economic activities of the populations existing within these settlements (King, 1985, p. 4). In his theory, he identified highest order areas (modern-day cities and metropolitan regions) as having the unique activities they support. He further explained that the way these functions are arranged changes from place to place and among populations. This theory is of great significance in understanding how people move from the high streets to the shopping malls and the overall arrangement of the cityscape.

Central Place theory states that cities and metropolitans can support numerous activities due to their vast thresholds. However, the peripheries of these urbanised areas are subject to domination by smaller retail functions which can be supported by the small population. Christaller’s concept of range depicts the maximum distance with which people can move to obtain a specific good or service. The distance takes into account the streets and plazas people use to go shopping. The planning and design of these areas aim at easing the distance people have to move to obtain certain goods and services by making the experience enjoyable. Through such strategies, the cost of acquiring the service/good is outweighed by the benefits gained in return. Therefore, satisfying Christaller’s that obtain services only over a range that they deem less costly and more profitable.

Fig 2: Threshold and range in Central place theory.


Jon Jerde

Jerde identified the shopping malls and urban areas as the products of urban renewal which failed to integrate the basic concept of life in their creation. He refers to these areas full of the hard surface as “soulless.” In his ideology of perfect urban space, he gave outdoor activities a priority before the creation of multi-level malls and shopping centres. Thus advocating for planned streets and plazas as a means of enhancing the functionality of urban land uses. The primary objective of his creation as to motivate people to move from their suburban lifestyle and move to high streets to enjoy a communal experience at the same time boosting the economic sustenance of these areas. He emphasised that these aesthetically pleasing regions are what made the malls to be vibrant and attract large crowds to obtain the services. Thus cultivating the spirit of place-making that is globally appreciated due to the increased awareness.

Horton Plaza; In this project, Jerde managed to show the world what it meant to have a wholesome social experience by in cooperating, winding demarcated, well-lit plazas with unique architectural and landscaping designs. This hotel attracted millions of visitors all over the world as it represented a perfect integration of both socio-economic aspects of life

Fig 3; Horton Plaza


The social life of small urban.

Whyte identifies streets and plazas as the most social places with a variety and large population densities within an urban landscape. As much as streets are considered a play area, they also play a vital role in carrying out other functions such as social gatherings, business meetings, recreational activities and entertainment which are the major components of life. According to Whyte (1980, p.12), the existence of these areas helps in relieving the bottlenecks of urban areas such as subways. The ability of these areas to reduce the high pressure in high-end areas is what has continually guided the in cooperation of soft and hard texture in most urban areas globally (Klingmann, 1998, p. 29).

He further emphasised that efficient planning of these areas through implementation of best practices that are feasible creates a new demand for the services offered. These entail sitting areas, restricted and permissible areas, water points, monuments and focus points. Such features create a pulling force, thus, drawing people from all regions; and what attracts people to places is other people (Whyte, 1980, p. 21).

Safe Designs

Safety in design for public spaces is among the leading concepts discussed by Whyte. People should not be kept away from something they need to relate with (Whyte, 1980, p. 82). However, designs aimed at improving their safety in these areas should be the critical factor in every public implementation projects. The security an area used by the public depends on several factors and not just insecurity. Intangible aspects of protection such as the ability to enjoy a peaceful quite scenery are what counts. Most public spaces need to provide a haven for the mind and soul even if they are designed to function as retail outlets. Whyte uses an example of Parley Park (USA) whose water makes a lot of noise to the extent that the sound becomes a nuisance to the neighbouring streets (Whyte, 1980, p. 82). Therefore, any form of the design proposed for high street areas should be in harmony with the neighbourhood character. Incorporation of developments that are in line with one another in the overall urban context minimises the potential risks and challenges that may arise.

Ground Control

Anna Minton contradicts all the other theorists advocating for friendly street designs with architectural streetscapes, Cul-de-sacs, and greenbelts. She refers to this British system of planning as a failure as it supports for non-friendly neighbourhoods. She further attributes the challenges resulting from public space control to the flawed system of planning. According to her (Minton, 2012, p. 40), the high streets play a significant role in creating unsafe neighbourhoods where everyone is sceptical of each other. Therefore, providing room for chaotic existence. She justifies Planning for these areas as an excuse of regeneration which does not exist. The latter is the reason gated communities are rapidly developing.

Additionally, Minton believes that physical transformation of the high streets may not directly result in beneficial outcomes to the surrounding population as resources are pulled towards single direction rather than towards the society as insinuated. Therefore, turning public spaces into retail areas results in the privatisation of these regions by the rich in the community.

Challenges are facing Establishment of High Streets.

The primary challenge facing the establishment and functionality of these areas over a considerable period is the most active credential. Robust urban setups are vital in determining the level of investment in a particular area. Polarisation renders the alternative locations weaker for such developments to take place. Therefore, finding prime space in the high demand has become a menace. The situation is accelerated by the increased demand for other permanent urban land uses that are more profit yielding.

Furthermore, consumer behaviours are continuously evolving resulting in a shift from high streets towards the online platforms. These platforms offer more convenience and a more extensive variety due to global reach than high streets. This aspect has resulted in the decline of most business establishments along these areas. Therefore, making these areas to be dilapidated.

Most people remain sceptical in using public spaces. Especially during odd hours. Even after the implementation of broader policing strategies in different countries insecurity in these areas is unpredictable. One never knows which type of “policing family” they are going to meet at these high streets (Minton, 2012, p. 45). Everyone becomes suspicious of their neighbour. Open spaces and public spaces are accessible to all. Despite the differences the way people carry themselves there will always be the need to persevere different characters and individuals when it came to using these spaces.


In cooperation with the evolving demand for self- fulfilling by members of the society is still a significant factor in controlling how they appreciate these open spaces and the uniquely designed streetscapes. The feeling of being part of the community is what will continue redirecting appreciation through protection of these areas by the public from urbanisation (Banerjee, 2001, p.14). Vendors and retailers operating along major high streets should embrace online markets rather than see them as competition. Online platforms can be a significant branding and awareness creation for the goods and services offered. Global outreach will not only enhance the performance of Liverpool’s integrated nodes but also improve the tourism levels in the country.

There is a further need to ensure accurate and truthful documentation of public sites and green belts to prevent encroachment of urbanisation in these areas. These areas should be classified both as environmentally fragile zones and public land. The zoning will deliberately cut off any attempts to corrupt the creation of compatible self-sufficient land uses. Furthermore, it will limit polarisation by creating a land bank among the major urban areas to accommodate public spaces.

These spaces should be created in a manner that they are liveable and secure. Design strategies such as floodlights and security checkpoints can help boost the security of all public spaces both during the day and at night.


Our city and town centres are responsible for broader social and economic dynamics in the society. They are also a transformed commitment to identify key strategies that steer the vitality and renewal of streets during the current perplexing economic landscape. The report and previously written research stipulate that centres need to adapt to the changing economic landscape and policy, about the retail industry in towns and city centres. Shifts in the retail trends, natural policy, and economic climate are substantially relevant to the success of historic streets and urban centres concerning open spaces. There is a positive impact on the reinvention and improvement of town and city centres, inclusive of high streets, as viable and sustainable settings for leisure, business, and shopping.

It is fundamental for the local authorities to realise the need to reduce the number of retail services with a town or city centre and be able to adjust to the current societal trends. For example through reduction of the number of existing retail stores/units, in concurrence with the introduction of other significant uses to retain vitality. International and national pressures, in conjunction with different preferences and tastes, have a substantial effect on the traditional city and town centres. Therefore, this fact leads to a massive swell of voids and vacancies within the retail industry that can be efficiently utilised.

Societies nowadays grow due to the significant influence of its constituent community members and their impact towards growth. It is evident fr

August 01, 2023


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