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Remembering the Liverpool building that turned itself inside out

Liverpool Echo logo Liverpool Echo 09/12/2018 Lorna Hughes
a large white building: Turning the Place Over in Moorfields in June 2007 © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Turning the Place Over in Moorfields in June 2007

Moorfields once had the world's most talked about derelict building - when a former Yates's Wine Lodge literally turned itself inside out.

Turning the Place over was a temporary artwork conceived for Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture and saw a 26-tonne section of Cross Keys House fixed to a giant pivot.

It opened in May 2007 and was due to be exhibited only into 2008, but proved such a phenomenal draw that it kept turning until 2011.

Its creator, artist Richard Wilson, has fond memories of the spectacle and said he hoped it could be switched back on or find a permanent home elsewhere.

He told the ECHO: "I came up with the idea in 2004 or 5. I saw Lewis Biggs, director of the Liverpool Biennial and said 'I've had this fantastic idea, it would be great to do it in Liverpool'.

a tall building: The former Turning Place Over installation on Moorfields. (Pic Andrew Teebay) © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited The former Turning Place Over installation on Moorfields. (Pic Andrew Teebay)

"I sent him my ideas and the next day he said 'Get up to Liverpool and have a look for a building'!"

The team settled on empty Cross Keys House, opposite Moorfields Station, because it was then owned by the council.

It became a major part of Liverpool's Capital of Culture public arts programme, stunning visitors and passers-by and become a star of YouTube even before it launched.

a tall glass building: Turning the Place Over in Moorfields in 2007 © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Turning the Place Over in Moorfields in 2007 a man standing in front of a building: A passer-by takes a photo of Turning the Place Over on Moorfields in 2007 - phones have changed a bit since then.. © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited A passer-by takes a photo of Turning the Place Over on Moorfields in 2007 - phones have changed a bit since then..

Its revolving façade rested on a specially-designed giant rotator, acting as a huge opening and closing “window” to offer glimpses of the interior during its constant cycle in daylight hours.

Turning the Place Over cost £450,000, with Liverpool Culture Company paying £150,000, and was described as “the most daring piece of public art ever commissioned in the UK”.

At the time Lewis Biggs, director of Liverpool Biennial, said it would be "remembered and celebrated for as long as people’s jaws are capable of dropping" - and Mr Wilson said it had not been forgotten.

He said: "I still get people from around the world, curators, people from magazines, people writing books, requesting photos.

"It was a very powerful piece. It took the derelict and the forlorn and forgotten and written off during that year and showed how the power of art can transform it."

a large building: Richard Wilson's Turning the Place Over on Moorfields, which was created for Liverpool's year as Capital of Culture © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Richard Wilson's Turning the Place Over on Moorfields, which was created for Liverpool's year as Capital of Culture a person standing in front of a window: Artist Richard Wilson inside Turning the Place over on Moorfields in 2007 © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Artist Richard Wilson inside Turning the Place over on Moorfields in 2007

Mr Wilson said it even impressed a taxi driver in the city who told him he was cynical about art - but drove him to see what he said was a "damn good piece of art".

He said: "I didn't dare tell him it was mine because he probably would have thought he had an idiot in the car!

"When we got there he said 'You can't sit in the car' and was telling me the best places to stand to see it.

This Liverpool business is turning the city into a winter wonderland

"It even ended up being a Saturday and Sunday tourist attraction and people would queue up to go inside and see it free of charge. I had requests from bands asking to play in there."

The artwork was so successful it kept turning and turning - but it was eventually switched off at the end of the next Biennial in 2010.

the inside of a building: The giant ovoid for Turning the Place Over is hoisted into position on the front of the former Yates Wine Lodge in Moorfields in 2007 © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited The giant ovoid for Turning the Place Over is hoisted into position on the front of the former Yates Wine Lodge in Moorfields in 2007

London-based Mr Wilson said there was still a "buzz" to bring it back - although Cross Keys House is understood to have been earmarked for development by Homes England.

He said: "I don't think it's possible for it to be permanent where it is but it would be nice to think that one day Turning the Place Over could be built permanently somewhere in Europe.

"If there was a backer I don't see why it couldn't be switched back on in Liverpool while the building is still there and it's sitting there.

a crane next to a building: Turning the Place Over on Moorfields in 2007 © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Turning the Place Over on Moorfields in 2007

"It would need people who wanted to fund it and some capital to check the mechanics and for a feasibility study.

"I can't see the negative side in it with the pleasure it gives people at that point in the city centre - now people would be taking selfies with it!

"It's great for Liverpool and it would be a celebration of that piece of work."

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