LOT-EK is a New York based architectural partnership founded by Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano, both of whom trained as architects in Italy.

They have expressed a continuing interest in the reuse of industrial containers and other existing structures, from petrol tanks to the fuselage of a Boeing 747, or, as in Welcome Box (2002) – their commission for the International 02 – a sea container.

On their first visit to Liverpool, Tolla and Lignano remarked on how the city reminded them of Naples – the faded glory of empire, but also the indelible mark of the sea. In response to the invitation to design a kiosk to provide information to visitors for one of a number of sites in the city centre, they chose a site guaranteed to be visible to every visitor arriving in Liverpool on an Intercity train: between platforms 7 and 8 at Lime Street Station. Their choice of a sea container from which to create the Welcome-Box seemed inevitable.

Liverpool’s enormous wealth of listed buildings – overwhelmingly from the nineteenth century – sometimes appears to have a stifling effect on the production of new architecture of quality in the city. Sometimes planning regimes appear to sanction the creation of buildings of extremely poor design, provided they adhere to the material culture of the heritage context (‘build it in brick’). Italian architects and designers are leaders in the integration of good modern with a built environment far older than Liverpool’s; they have consistently shown how boldness and simplicity (with quality of materials) can provide a fitting contemporary sequel to any ‘heritage’ environment.

In forming a ‘gateway’ with which to welcome visitors at Lime Street Station, LOT-EK’s playful and appropriate intervention demonstrated how a dynamic response to a functional need could provide an economical and memorable design solution to an environment already seemingly overladen with history. Welcome-Box (2002) contributed to the creation of an urgent debate around urban planning in Liverpool city centre, during a time of frenzied development.

Welcome-Box, 2002
Multimedia Installation
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2002
Exhibited at Lime Street Station, Platforms 7-8