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AJ Retrofit Awards: Khan and Williams discuss Museum of London designs

Close up discussion retrofit
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Asif Khan and Paul Williams last week revealed more details about their competition-winning designs for Smithfield Market at the AJ Retrofit Awards 

The keynote speakers, who appeared alongside Museum of London director Sharon Ament, discussed the plans at the annual retrofit dinner held last Wednesday night (September 14) at the Brewery, London.

Stanton Williams and Asif Khan won the contest to design the museum new £150million home inside the historic Smithfield market complex back in July.

Their team, which also involves conservation expert and architect Julian Harrap and landscape designer J&L Gibbons, was hailed as the ‘clear winner’ in the Malcolm Reading Consultants-organised contest.

The museum is currently located on London Wall near the Barbican centre and suffers accessibility problems.

Paul Williams, director of Stanton Williams, explained that he had previously worked with Khan on proposals for the Olympicopolis in a team led by Aecom.

He said: ‘What Asif certainly brought to that team was a poetic response to the project, which added hugely.’

Asif Khan of Asif Khan Architects said that there was a social element to the design – comparing it to the way people often go to the British Museum and Tate Modern to see others, as well as to see the collections.

Khan said: ‘We go [to museums] to socialise and it gives us some freedom of creativity.’

He added: ‘If you transfer that to a museum that is about the city […] we create a social environment around that. It could be the place where ideas for the future could be created. We created a space for that to happen […] It can be a room of the city, where ideas emerge from the past and into the future.’

Challenged by AJ managing editor Will Hurst, who was hosting the discussion, about whether the scheme would preserve the ‘grit’ of the original buildings, Sharon Ament replied: ‘It’s our collective intent to keep the character of those buildings, but add new elements to it.

‘There’s a forensic analysis of the buildings to be done. It’s very complex, it’s almost like catacombs under the ground, and there is the [history of] steam trains. The soot is imbued in the walls, we can’t get rid of that. I don’t know what the health and safety or environmental issues are around that though.’

Successful schemes at the AJ Retrofit Awards included the transformation of a prefab classroom block into a sixth form building in Tower Hamlets by the council’s own architects, WilkinsonEyre’s Stirling Prize-shortlisted Weston Library, and Dow Jones’ £2.38 million revamp of the crypt at Christ Church Spitalfields.

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris’ Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool was named the Retrofit of the Year.

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