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City of London resurrects plans for new concert hall

Conductor Simon Rattle
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The City of London has resurrected plans for a new concert hall on the Museum of London site next to the Barbican – two months after the government withdrew its financial support

The corporation, which held £1.3 billion in cash reserves in 2012, has announced it will spend £2.5 million drawing up a detailed business case for the building.

The business case, set to complete next year, will test whether it is viable to build the hall on part of the 140–150 London Wall site, which currently houses the Museum of London – now set to move to Smithfield – and office block Bastion House.

As part of the study, the City of London will commission an architect to develop conceptual plans for the new building, a spokesperson for the project confirmed. 

Commenting on the announcement, City of London policy chairman Mark Boleat said: ‘This decision reaffirms our commitment to transform the area surrounding the Barbican into a world-leading cultural hub for the arts, heritage and learning.

‘We have a long history as a leading investor in the arts and we recognise that culture – open and available to all – is what attracts people to visit, work and live in London and the UK.’

In a statement, the project partners – Barbican Centre, London Symphony Orchestra and Guildhall School of Music & Drama – added: ‘We are very pleased that the City of London Corporation has agreed to provide funding to complete a detailed business case for an outstanding Centre for Music in the Square Mile.

‘Our vision and drive to deliver a world-class centre for the 21st century that provides access to great music to the widest possible audience remains unchanged, and we are looking forward to working with the City of London Corporation to explore how this vision could potentially become a reality.’

The government dropped its support for a £278 million City venue for the London Symphony Orchestra last November, saying no longer represented ‘value for money’, according to the government.

The surprise U-turn came one year after a government-backed feasibility study had endorsed the scheme, which would have replaced Powell & Moya’s 1976 Museum of London.

The study, drawn up by Arup and Arup Associates among others, said London lacked a venue with ‘brilliance, immediacy, depth, richness and warmth’ and risked ‘falling behind other major cities with the proliferation of outstanding new 21st-century halls across the world’.

The report echoed the concerns aired previously by conductor Simon Rattle, who will become musical director of the London Symphony Orchestra later this year, and has previously spoken critically of the quality of London’s performance venues.

The proposed redevelopment of the Barbican site follows the planned relocation of the Museum of London to a new venue designed by Stanton Williams and Asif Khan in West Smithfield

In February Léon Krier proposed an alternative new home for the London Symphony Orchestra in a new Classical-inspired building on the edge of Regent’s Park.

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