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Diller Scofidio + Renfro unveils £288m City of London concert hall


The first images of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s competition-winning and much-anticipated new concert hall at the Barbican have been revealed

Earlier this month the project’s backer and client, the City of London Corporation, approved £2.5 million for further work on the New York practice’s proposed Centre for Music.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro landed the landmark scheme in autumn 2017 when it was selected ahead of rival bids from practices including Amanda Levete, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Snøhetta and Renzo Piano.

The concert hall, with an expected build cost of up to £288 million, will be constructed on the London Wall site that will be vacated when the Museum of London moves to a new Stanton Williams and Asif Khan-designed home in West Smithfield.

Talking about the new hall a few weeks ago, City of London Corporation policy chair Catherine McGuinness said: ’The proposed centre for music would attract outstanding performers and diverse audiences, and it is my sincere hope that creative businesses, which contribute a huge amount to the UK’s economy, would be proud to engage with this landmark building.’

The Centre for Music project is backed by the Barbican, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. 

According to the original tender notice, the winning practice will draw up conceptual plans for a ‘state-of-the-art building of acoustic and visual excellence’ on the prime plot currently occupied by Powell & Moya’s 1976 museum.

It is understood the new scheme will feature a series of ’commercial spaces that will support the construction and running costs of the building, enabling it to operate without ongonig public subsidy’.

The concert hall is not Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s only UK project. Last May it won the Victoria and Albert Museum’s competition to design a £25 million collections centre on the Olympic Park in east London and is working on Greenwich Peninsula’s answer to New York’s High Line, which the practice also famously designed.

Since then the US practice has narrowly missed out on a string of high-profile schemes in the UK, including the London School of Economics’ new Paul Marshall Building, the Royal College of Art’s £108 million extension to its Battersea campus and Manchester’s £110 million The Factory arts space.

The judges in the Centre for Music contest praised Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s approach as having ‘most clearly met the vision and ambition of this project’. The jury said the firm’s proposal would ‘deliver a world-class concert hall in an outstanding new building’.


Readers' comments (10)

  • chris Dyson

    These seem like visionary and exciting proposals well worth supporting, particularly in this quarter of the City. The design represents a comprehensive approach by the City of London to open up and reinvigorate its Artistic 'soul' as a world class city, in terms of the Arts supported by the success of its financial world.
    Imagine on a weekend, one could walk from The Tate on the south bank across the millennium bridge to St Paul's, Paternoster square, and on towards The Barbican with this new building becoming a focal point to the improvement of this area.
    Its early days, and it looks like a sophisticated and ambitious project by talented architects, it should also compliment the new Museum of London located in Smithfield by Stanton Williams Architects, another exciting City initiative.

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  • Nice visuals/presentation but there appears to be nothing ground-breaking in the disappointing design, which is clearly derived from Tate Modern, Royal Festival Hall, Cardiff's St Davids Hall, among others. The overriding impression is how 'squeezed' it all is, confirming first impressions that this site is really not big enough. The one merit of the Barbican Hall (the least favourite of my British Concert Halls) is the sense of space and the excellent external public spaces (once you have managed to find them in the labyrinthine approaches). This proposal is sadly lacking in many aspects

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  • Shameful and sad - a copy of Tate Modern.

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  • It seems clear - though has not be mentioned anywhere - that the site also includes 140 London Wall/aka Bastion House, the last of the 6 tower blocks along London Wall.

    The combined site is tricky, for sure, and arguably the current Deconstructivist trend suits it as well as the Brutalism of the 1960s, but not sure what appears a copy of Tate Modern's new wing helps.

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  • Another twisting tower for London? I guess that’s better than another phallus.

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  • Alan Crawford

    High drama in this gravity defying design proposal that seems to incorporate all the in vogue ingredients look likely to double the budget costs and programme. The angular irregular layered multi tiered concert hall seating has a semblance to the ‘Star Wars Galactic Republic Senate Chamber’ and i’m not sure you will want to be occupying the ‘cheap’ seats (if there are any) especially if you have any mobility issues, not to mention hearing difficulties, as it’s not apparent how this concert hall shape will work acoustically.

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  • The concept and layout to me is interesting how it manages to overcome site constraints and more user friendly for walkers in an area which is currently dominated by motor vehicles. It is quite a dark area due to buildings surrounding it.

    However the external appearance, to me looks like a sandwich of different parts, it could be bolder and more elegant as it looks too fussy for my liking compared to the iconic concert halls in the world.

    Would be interesting to have seen the other bids what their proposals are.

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  • Based on the video, the new concert hall will have no visible means of support.........Perhaps the design team has worked out a way to switch-off gravity on the site, in which case they should be congratulated!

    .........Otherwise we can expect the transparent, see-though foyer areas shown in the video to become filled up with arrays of columns and walls.

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  • 1) I guarantee this building will not end up looking like this. Compare Factory Theatre, Manchester competition winner to the latest issued renders; the vast majority of the glass has been replaced with concrete due to noise issues and cost. Both projects will end up as just another couple of strange angular shapes looking outdated within 5 years.

    2) The Berliner Philharmonie is easily spotted by the golden-orange cladding, but it is the orchestra that makes it famous, and the building is most noted for pioneering 'Vineyard-style' seating, which was specifically about the way audiences interact with performers, and the focus was of the interaction between audience and performer. Here it’s more been a case of dropping the standard modern auditorium design in the middle of the site and then forgetting about it, with all further attention to the zig zag stairs, bright orange frills and omnipresent glazing.

    3) No effort to minimise environmental impact; could easily have made it a core aspect of the initial design, and could easily stack ventilate the atriums very effectively. Also, issues of solar gain have blatantly not shaped the initial design, which will make it very hard to make work in the later design stages (at which point the only course of action will be replacing the glass on the south-facing regions with opaque facade sections).

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  • Clever video, very seductive but is it achievable within the budget?

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