Architecture: Paddy's wigwam needs repairs

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The Independent Culture
LIVERPOOL's Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral (above) has had little to celebrate in the 28 years since it was built. The roof started leaking soon after it was opened, the mosaic tiles covering the vast concrete ribs began to come away and the architect, Sir Frederick Gibberd, was subsequently sued by the cathedral authorities.

Last week the cathedral's luck took a turn with an offer of a pounds 1.5m grant from English Heritage, and recognition from the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Peter Brooke, that it was worthy of a grade II* listing.

Known locally as 'Paddy's Wigwam', the cathedral is one of the few Sixties buildings that inspires genuine affection but, like so many buildings of the same period, has been technically unreliable. The most recent estimate says it will cost pounds 6m to put things right. At least pounds 1m has to be spent on a new stainless steel roof and a further pounds 1m on encasing the mosaic tiles in glass reinforced plastic.

In the law suit that followed the building's completion in 1968, an out-of-court settlement of pounds 1.3m was awarded to the cathedral authorities on five counts, the two most serious being the defects in the aluminium roof and the blistering mosaic tiles. Once it had paid the consultants' fees, the cathedral was left with just pounds 900,000 and now has to raise another pounds 1.5m to match the English Heritage grant. An appeal that was launched in 1987 was abandoned after the cathedral managed to raise pounds 1m. Its administrator, Monsignor Peter Cookson, says, 'Raising the money is not going to be easy . . . we are not in leafy Hampshire.'

There is some concern that this might not be the end of the cathedral's troubles. The architect in charge of repairs, Bing Vis, believes the heating and wiring will need replacing soon, a job that could run into even more thousands of pounds.

(Photograph omitted)