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McAslan behind plans to move Museum of London to Smithfield

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John McAslan + Partners is understood to be working on new options for the historical Smithfield Market in London - including a potential move to the site by the Museum of London

Original plans by the practice to convert the site into an office and retail scheme were thrown out by communities secretary Eric Pickles in July (AJ 08.07.14).

But now the firm is believed to be working on alternatives, including relocating the Museum of London from its home in the Barbican complex to the empty Victorian market buildings.

Insiders claim the Museum of London could take all the vacant buildings at Smithfield. ‘It is a deal that would potentially work for everybody’ a source close to the project said. ‘There is no doubt McAslan has been looking at alternative uses for the site,’ they added.

However the backer behind the failed mixed-use plans for the central London landmark, developer Henderson Global Investors, is also continuing to consider retail-led plans, according to the source.

Reports last week said the museum has identified a potential move to the former market as one of three options for its future, due to concerns that its current location at London Wall is too hard for visitors to find.

Coincidentally, McAslan has also been involved with this ‘visioning’ project, undertaking a masterplanning exercise to help the museum better understand its current building.

A spokesperson for the Museum of London said: “In order to create a museum that meets the needs of Londoners and visitors to the city, the Museum of London is considering a range of very speculative options for our long-term future and a detailed appraisal of each is under way.’

The spokesman said that a detailed appraisal of all the options was under way but would not confirm that relocation was among them.

Marcus Binney, chairman of campaign group SAVE Europe’s Heritage, said a move by the museum to the former market would be ‘a very interesting suggestion.

But he added: ‘Our concern is still that the market interiors retain their open character but there is plenty of space underneath which could be used effectively.’

Director of the Victorian Society, Christopher Costelloe, said: ‘This arrangement could be positive both for the future of this historic London building and for the museum itself ­ which is likely to see more footfall.

‘However, as with any redevelopment, the proposal’s actual impact on Smithfield Market will only be appreciated once detailed plans are drawn up.’

In throwing out McAslan’s original scheme, Pickles said that it would have ‘an extremely harmful effect on the significance of the General Market as an important non-designated heritage asset’.

The plans, which had been supported by both CABE and English Heritage, came in for heavy criticism from SAVE - a campaign backed by developer the Cathedral Group.


John McAslan + Partners’ rejected Smithfield plans [2014]

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Rogers

    I’m less worried by the Smithfield issue than I am about what the MoL is doing; it’s never stopped fiddling with its building in the last 15 years, and less than 5 years ago spent £20m – half of that from the public purse – on its latest iteration, yet only now does it think it’s in the wrong place? The Barbican has never been more accessible and popular, so it seems odd to shift now. Mind you the Powell & Moya building has been mutilated quite a bit now so maybe it’s best.

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