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Museum of London: plans submitted for new £337m home in Smithfield

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The Museum of London has submitted a detailed application for its proposed move into a new £337 million home at Smithfield Market 

The designs for the abandoned buildings near Farringdon have been drawn up by Stanton Williams, Asif Khan and Julian Harrap Architects. It is understood that there have been only minor changes to the proposals, which went out to public consultation in July 2019.

The Museum of London is set to move its 7 million objects from its Powell & Moya-designed Barbican base into a ’24-hour cultural destination’ at the West Smithfield site. 

Over the past five years the cost of the prestigious project has ballooned and the timescale has been pushed back significantly. The Museum of London attributes this to an increase in floor space, a change in layout when adjacent buildings became available and the historic market buildings being in a worse state than was first thought.

The project was formally announced in 2015 and the architects appointed following a major contest organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants the following year. The competition had an indicative price tag of £150 million. In 2017 the budget had reportedly risen to £250 million and when the scheme went out to consultation in the summer it had grown again to £332million.

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

Since the appointment the team has been refining its designs for the site, part of architect Horace Jones’ 1860s Grade II-listed market complex. The market has previously been the subject of a number of failed proposals, including schemes by KPF (2008) and John McAslan & Partners (2014).

A spokesperson for the museum said: ’A comprehensive programme of engagement with Londoners has been ongoing since the plans to move the Museum of London from London Wall to West Smithfield were revealed in 2015, which has demonstrated widespread support for the proposals, with 96 per cent of respondents in favour of the plans.

Museum of London director Sharon Ament added: ’This is an important milestone for the project, as we formally set out our plans to transform the West Smithfield site and in doing so transform the idea of what a museum can be.

’It has been [more than] four years of hard work by a dedicated and talented project team in order to get here and, while we still have a while to go and money to raise before we open the doors to the new museum, this is nevertheless a significant step forward to turning our vision into reality.’

The City of London Corporation has made an unprecedented investment into the project by putting forward £197 million of the £337 million needed to deliver the scheme. This includes an additional £5 million that was approved by the Court of Common Council in September 2019. A capped contribution of £70m has also been made by the Mayor of London, which was announced in January 2017.

It has also raised £28 million in donations, including £10 million from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, £5 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It still needs to raise a further £42 million.

The planning application submitted to the City of London covers the General Market, Poultry Market and a suite of buildings known as The Annexe, which includes the Fish Market, Red House and Engine House. A listed building consent application for the Grade II-listed Poultry Market has also been submitted.

A committee date is not yet known.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Notable is less what has changed since last summer than what has changed since 2015. Personally I'm not yet convinced the spaces will really work, awkward as they undoubtedly are - the post war poultry market building is stunning, to be sure, but like the Design Museum awkwardly shoehorned into the Commonwealth Institute - which image #4 resembles - neither may come off well.

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  • S+W yes for sure. But Asif Kahn... oh dear
    Hopefully no input...

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