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Contest launched for Museum of London's new Smithfield home

Smithfield Market
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The Museum of London has launched an international competition to find an architect to design its new £150 million home in the historic West Smithfield market 

The Malcolm Reading Consultants-run two-stage contest has a low threshold turnover of £2 million as part of an attempt to encourage new talent to submit for the job to create a new headquarters for the museum.

The scheme will focus on regenerating the Grade II-listed Victorian complex and transforming it into a series of contemporary galleries.

The much anticipated contest comes two years after former communities secretary Eric Pickles rejected John McAslan’s controversial plans to convert the market.

Applicants are not required to submit any designs until the second stage of the contest when five finalists will be asked to produce concepts for the 25,000m² site.

Director of the Museum of London, Sharon Ament, said: ‘London is brilliantly creative and brilliantly connected to the rest of the world. I cannot wait to see schemes for West Smithfield from designers working in all four corners of the globe. The challenge of sympathetically reinventing a series of fascinating and wonderful buildings and reimagining them as a museum is big, a bit scary and terribly exciting, much like London itself.’

Malcolm Reading, architect and competition organiser, added: ‘We’ve been conscious of the need to level the field for competitors by keeping the turnover threshold low relative to the scale of the project. Designers who can’t meet this level are encouraged to collaborate with others.

He added: ‘The museum’s international brand and the draw of working in one of the world’s most creative cities are just two of many fascinating aspects of the project. We’re seeking to attract a diverse pool of international talent.’

The jury for the contest will be chaired by journalist Evan Davis and will also include the Museum of London’s Sharon Ament, chairman of the board of governors Clive Bannister, and Stanhope chief executive David Camp.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 15 March at 2pm. A shortlist is expected to be announced in the spring with the winner revealed in the summer with the museum aiming to get planning and raise the funds to deliver the project in 2021.

The Museum of London’s relocation paves the way for its current Powell & Moya-designed home at the Barbican to be either demolished or renovated (see below). The site looks set to become home to a new ‘world-class concert’ venue for the London Symphony Orchestra - a project championed by its incoming music director Simon Rattle.

The museum has already applied for a certificate of immunity from listing and the Twentieth Century Society has said it has no plans to contest the application.

More information on the competition can be found, here.

Museum of London

Museum of London

Museum of London

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