Foster, Rogers, Cullinan and Alsop this week reveal their jaw-dropping masterplans for the key Merseyside scheme, on display to the public at Liverpool's Walker Gallery until Sunday. Here's what each are proposing.
The schemes in the running for Liverpool's long-awaited "Fourth Grace", widely regarded as the design competition of the year, were put on public view this week.

The shortlist is made up of four blue-blooded practices: Foster and Partners, Richard Rogers Partnership, Edward Cullinan Architects and Alsop Architects. Their designs are on display at Liverpool's Walker Gallery until Sunday.

Urban regeneration company Liverpool Vision is client for the scheme, which will develop the Pier Head site, directly south of the Port of Liverpool and the Cunard and Royal Liver buildings. The trio is collectively known as the "Three Graces". The client has demanded at least one iconic building from each architect and will select a winner by the end of the year.

Foster's Liverpool Ark scheme includes a 5000 m2 wintergarden, as well as 63,000 m2 of offices, a theatre and a museum. The architect has teamed up with developer Urban Splash and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Foster partner Ken Shuttleworth said: "The development will bring life, visitors and vitality to the Pier Head around the clock."

Will Alsop's scheme comprises three main structures. The "Hill" has exhibition space with a 500-seat auditorium, the "Cloud" has hieroglyphics of Liverpool's 800-year history, and the "Living" is an 19-storey residential building. A consortium spokesperson said: "Every pound of public money spent on this unique proposal will get a greater return than a more conventional design." With Alsop are developers Countryside Properties and Neptune Developments.

The third scheme is by Edward Cullinan Architects, with developers David McLean and the Downing Group. The practice describes its design, which includes 18,000 m2 of museum space and a 150-bedroom five-star hotel, as a "world class multi-use development".

Richard Rogers Partnership's scheme includes two towers of 20 and 30 storeys, a 2500-seat performance and exhibition venue, and 15,000 m2 for the Museum of Liverpool. The team includes joint developers Chelsfield and Capital & Provident, and engineer Arup. Richard Rogers said: "The Fourth Grace is a fantastic opportunity to build on Liverpool's heritage."

Amazing Graces

Grace is not be the foremost attribute of the four architectural schemes competing to become Liverpool’s latest architectural icon. Flamboyant, exuberant and ostentatious would be more apt descriptions. They are, without exception, huge – Rogers’ design rises to a pinnacle 30 storeys high. Their free sculptural forms – angular in the case of Foster and Cullinan, curvilinear in Rogers’ and Alsop’s visions – and their gleaming skins are celebrations of modern computer-aided design and construction materials. Whether they are loved or loathed, each of these schemes will certainly eclipse the demure classical stone forms of their three elder sisters.