The £20 million Maritime Knowledge Hub will become of the Wirral Waters redevelopment scheme, which is being overseen by Peel Land & Property.
Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen and local practice Ellis Williams Architects were selected, following an invited competition, to transform part of the dockside site into a facility for marine engineering research, survival training and business development.
The complex will be located near the waterfront in Birkenhead, which sits on the opposite side of the River Mersey from Liverpool – as told in the 1960s song Ferry Cross the Mersey.
"Designing a complex that is one of the most transformative new developments in the Liverpool region called for thoughtful architectural design that respects the heritage of the existing building, while looking towards the future," said Morten Schmidt, founding partner of Schmidt Hammer Lassen.
The focal point of the hub will be a 19th-century hydraulic tower that was largely destroyed during bombing in the second world war. The brick building will contain three pools, several meeting rooms, and be topped with an observatory that will offer views across Liverpool.
Next to the historic tower will sit a contrasting modern building composed of white rectilinear volumes, which will contain a large tank for a state-of-the-art survival training centre, as well as a new office space and teaching rooms.
Interiors will be finished in a simple, industrial-style intended to mimic the modest appearance of offshore buildings – ceiling pipes will be left exposed and there will be ample use of raw materials like steel and concrete.
A wall of reused bricks will be erected around both buildings. Intended to appear as a "visual link [between] past and future", the barrier will shield visitors and employees from high winds from the river.
By closing off the building, the practices will also be able to create a handful of intimate outdoor spaces, including a courtyard and three small gardens.
The development is the sister project of The Liverpool Waters masterplan, which recently caused contention after UNESCO warned that the construction of a new 60-hectare mixed-use scheme could threaten the city's World Heritage status.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen has recently revealed plans to renovate a former brewery in Riga, Latvia, where it will introduce a hotel, public plaza and several offices.
Architect and landscape architect: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Local architect: Ellis Williams Architects
Master planner: Parkinson