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AJ exclusive: winner of Museum of London underground gallery contest named

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German studio Atelier Brückner has won the contest for a subterranean gallery within the Museum of London’s new £332 million West Smithfield headquarters

The Stuttgart firm was selected ahead of five rival bidders to win the prestigious commission. They were: ZMMA; Casson Mann; Nissen Richards Studio; New York and London-based Ralph Appelbaum Associates; and David Kohn Architects.

The victorious German practice has previously worked on exhibitions for the Heneghan Peng-designed Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo and Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners’ Macallan Visitor Centre, which is currently shortlisted for the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize.

Atelier Brückner will create a Past Time exhibition within the vaults (pictured below) beneath the historic 1883 General Market building in West Smithfield, which Stanton Williams and Asif Khan are transforming into a new home for the museum.

The £7.5 million project is the first gallery to be commissioned for the venue, which will eventually contain more than six million items showcasing a 2,000-year-history of London. The 2,500m² gallery will also display a live railway as the Thameslink line passes through part of the site and a see-through section of tunnel is planned within the vaults.

The exhibition will explore London in Time, London Life, and The Physical City, while also featuring the Cheapside Hoard, a collection of 16th and 17th-century jewellery discovered in 1912.

Museum of London director Sharon Ament said: ‘Atelier Brückner offered a deeply thoughtful and exciting approach to design. They impressed us with their sophisticated thinking about how to stage the London Collection and balance that with the world-class experience we want our visitors to have.

They impressed us with their sophisticated thinking

‘Their commitment to involving local communities in helping to shape the space is also something that chimes perfectly with our ethos here at the museum. For me, the Past Time galleries must be able to sit beside the best permanent galleries and displays in the world, it must have an enduring and universal quality.’

Stanton Williams and Asif Khan, working with conservation expert Julian Harrap, won the contest to design the museum’s new home in July 2016.

After three years spent refining their proposals and investgating the complex site, the design team finally began public consultation on their detailed plans this summer.

At the same time the museum also revealed the scheme would now cost £332 million – more than double the original competition budget. The Museum of London blamed the cost hike on an increase in floor space and a change in layout after buildings next door to the main 1880s General Market building became available.

Meanwhile, plans to transform the current Museum of London site at the Barbican into a £288 million concert hall by Diller Scofidio + Renfro were unveiled in January. That scheme was given a boost earlier this month when culture secretary Nicky Morgan granted the Museum of London and Bastion House buildings – both designed by post-war British practice Powell & Moya – certificates of immunity from listing.

In July, the City of London Corporation launched a search for a pair of design teams for a major regeneration of the Grade II*-listed Smithfield wholesale market complex next door. The shortlists for the two contracts have so far yet to be announced.

The museum’s opening is now expected to be 2024 – three years later than originally planned.

Generalmarket 2

Generalmarket 2

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It's becoming increasingly hard to keep track of the various strands of this project, not helped by the City's decision to now vacate the whole site and the little-publicised but radical changes to the main above-ground brief. Surely even 2024 seems optimistic.

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