Eureka! The National Children’s Museum
A home for the first world-class STE(A)M-focused children’s science and discovery centre in the North West
Following the success of its Halifax centre, EUREKA! The National Children’s Museum identified an opportunity to expand its reach, addressing the gap in STE(A)M focussed opportunities for family play and learning across the North West region, through a new sister attraction: EUREKA! Mersey.
With the support of Wirral Council and Merseytravel, the Seacombe ferry terminal and Spaceport visitor attraction site in Wallasey was identified as a viable site for the new visitor experience.
Fundamental to our approach was to work with the existing 1930s buildings and their setting as sensitively as possible, while enabling the delivery of a high-quality, progressive and exciting visitor attraction to meets EUREKA’s needs.
A series of interventions were developed to Stage 3 to strengthen connection between the two Grade II listed buildings, create a sense of arrival, emphasise the buildings’ Art Deco character, animate the façade, and provide a safe and exciting place for children to explore and learn; while maintaining the fully operational transport hub.
Now guiding the client in an advisory role through to completion, EUREKA! Mersey is due to open its doors in 2022.
EUREKA! Mersey will occupy an important location on the Wirral waterfront.
Seacombe terminal is one of the most significant points of arrival and departure on the peninsula, with converging pedestrian, vehicular and ferry routes. Its riverside location is full of opportunity: to use the river as a content generator; or using the ferry crossing as a special, exciting part of the journey to EUREKA! Mersey.
The site offers impressive views across to Liverpool’s iconic waterfront. Equally, there is great opportunity to maximise the site’s visibility from the city. EUREKA! Mersey occupies a central location in the Liverpool / Wirral area and could become an exciting gateway and link between regions.
The two existing buildings, primarily of brick finish with Portland Stone and concrete detailing, sit perpendicular to each other along the banks of the Mersey, joined by a single-storey loggia. ‘Active’ functions were carefully arranged along the loggia, with enlarged ‘shop windows’ formed in existing openings and framed with steel portals animating the façade and creating visual connection – reinstating the historically blurred threshold. Art installations and feature lighting along the loggia thread into the entrance spaces, marking circulation routes and signposting the building.
A new landscaped civic space reinforces the importance of the area between the buildings, reinstating historic hierarchy and celebrating the entrance.
Internally, layouts were rationalised, peeling away decades of unsympathetic additions. The ferry terminal is defined as the ‘social’ element, with the attraction building accommodating the exhibition content, theatre and creative spaces.
Seacombe terminal holds a special place in the history and heart of Wallasey, Wirral.
Its Grade II listing highlights Historic England’s recognition of the buildings’ importance. Providing a vital transport link between the Wirral peninsula and the city of Liverpool since the mid-16th century, the ferry terminal and associated buildings’ architectural, historical, social and cultural significance cannot be underappreciated.
It is evident that the site and buildings have undergone numerous adaptions and iterations over the centuries as the needs of people and technology changed: Community engagement and research helped us unearth some of these stories and memories. Originally, ferry terminal and associated workshops, the buildings have a history of connection to local infrastructure and industry: The First Floor of the attraction building is reputed to have housed the first multi-storey car park in Britain, and then the local Men’s Social Club, while externally, the forecourt became the area’s bus station.
Our approach was to focus intervention: to increase the longevity of the building, to unify the several additions made to the buildings and to create a sense of cohesion. New interventions are detailed simply, with clean lines and geometric shapes to express the buildings’ historic character and features and provide a backdrop to the exciting content inside. Existing additions are to be decorated to minimise their visual impact.
Inspiration was derived both from the existing building, with patterns and motifs taken from Art Deco geometric window patterns, and the innovative, futuristic content. A blend of sci-fi colours and treated steel meet chevrons and fish scales in a whimsical homage to the roaring 1920s and 30s.