The Museum of London has announced an international design competition for its new home inside Horace Jones’ historic 25,000m² West Smithfield market
The museum has appointed Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) to organise the much-anticipated contest which will open for entries next month.
The appointment comes nearly two years after communities secretary Eric Pickles rejected John McAslan’s controversial plans to convert the Grade II-listed Victorian complex into shops and offices.
Planned to complete in 2021, the project will create a new home for the museum spread across the vacant Smithfield General Market, the basement of the poultry market, the vacant Fish Market, the Red House, Iron Mountain and the Engine House.
City of London Corporation reportedly paid around £34.6million to buy back the site’s leasehold in December, allowing previous tenants Henderson Global Investors – which paid £15 million for the lease in 2010 and subsequently paid millions in maintenance and legal costs – to effectively break even.
Museum director Sharon Ament said: ‘Now that the City of London Corporation had acquired the leasehold, we can move forward with growing confidence to create a new museum in West Smithfield.’
He continued: ‘The next step is to select the best possible architects to take on this challenging and exciting brief.
‘So the search is about to begin to find world class, outstanding and inspiring architects who will deliver a design which combines stunning modern vision for a new museum with West Smithfield’s sensitive heritage.
‘We hope to tantalise the world’s most creative architectural minds with the prospect of working with us on this project.’
Funded by a £200,000 grant from the Mayor of London, MRC’s competition will shortlist this spring and select a winner in the summer.
MRC founder Malcolm Reading commented: ‘The museum’s ambition to make West Smithfield its new home, and create a dynamic cultural destination, is inspirational.
‘It’s a challenging site with a strong identity and a robust setting. This is a project which will intrigue the global design community.’
Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee at the City of London Corporation added: ’Smithfield is one of the most architecturally and historically important areas of the City. Therefore it is absolutely crucial for the Museum of London to find an architect who will be mindful of Smithfield’s heritage and propose designs which will enhance the area. This is an exciting challenge for any architect.
’I have every confidence that the Museum of London will be able to pick from the best in the field to find the right team for the job.’
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. 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.
Architects wishing to receive the launch flyer for the International Design Competition should contact MRC by email only at firstname.lastname@example.org