Jonathan Goring finds Liverpool’s Academy of St Francis of Assisi inspiring, but reckons it was a dark day in Leeds when planning permission was given to Ian Simpson’s Lumiere

I believe the best buildings have souls and the purpose they serve should be reflected in the way they look and feel. My choices reflect what I love and hate about our modern world.

The Academy of Saint Francis of Assisi in Liverpool is a great building, representing youth, energy, social conscience and learning. It has already made a difference to the community it serves. But it is also an award-winning testimony to sustainable design, with the building and the environment becoming core to the children’s curriculum. It embodies all that is good about design and will inspire generations to respect excellence.

My blunder is just one of many buildings that are out of touch with society. The Lumiere in Leeds represents the sole objective of its developer – to make a fast buck. It appears to have been conceived in a vacuum, failing to reflect the needs of the local community. High-density development must respect the basic human need for families and couples to be able to access healthcare and schools and should engender a sense of place. The Lumiere fails.

I sometimes wonder whether planners genuinely challenge such ill-conceived schemes or are too swayed by their council’s need to encourage capital investment, or create a bigger monument than their neighbouring city. It is further evidence of the poor decisions made in a world funded by bankers, with no grasp of common sense and only their next bonus in mind.

The only good news is that banks and developers will be put off by the thousands of unsold, high-rise apartments and we are unlikely to see this gold rush re-emerge.

The Academy of St Francis of Assisi


The Academy of St Francis of Assisi, designed by Capita Percy Thomas, is a secondary school in the deprived Kensington ward of Liverpool. The 900-place institution opened in November 2005 as the first joint denominational secondary school in England. It has a BREEAM “excellent” rating. The project team included Buro Happold, Mott MacDonald, Gardiner & Theobald and Birse.