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New Museum of London gets £180 million funding boost

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The City of London Corporation and London mayor Sadiq Khan today confirmed they have together put up £180 million of the £250 million fundraising target for the new Museum of London 

The City of London Corporation confirmed it would contribute £110 million to the scheme, and London mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged a further £70 million – the largest cultural investment made by any London mayor to date. 

Stanton Williams and Asif Khan, working with conservation expert Julian Harrap, won the contest to design the Museum of London’s new home inside the historic Smithfield market complex in July.

The new museum will be constructed on the 25,000m² West Smithfield site, which comprises a series of vacant, mostly Victorian, buildings. The plans involve retaining many of these buildings, including an iconic dome. The existing Smithfield Market, which traces its history back nearly 1,000 years, will continue unaffected by the proposals.

Khan told the AJ: ‘One of the things that we are going to do is preserve the best of the past, and also build for the future. On this project we’ve got some of the world’s leading architects involved – Khan is of no relation to me by the way. We’ve also got some of the country’s leading heritage aspects advising on how to preserve the best of the past. So, how do we preserve the dome?’

The mayor also said that he wanted the new Crossrail track, which will run underneath the building, to be incoporated within the museum. 

’There are plans for example to have screens, so that when you are on the train you can see into the museum. There are plans to raise the dome,’ he said. 

Khan also described the museum as a ‘cultural flagship’ for regeneration in the Smithfield area.

‘The Museum of London coming in here will not simply improve this derelict site, but neighbours will see benefits and the meat market next door will also see benefits – and that’s one of the great exciting things about this project,’ he added.

Plans for the new museum also include 8,000m² of permanent gallery space and 1,500m² of temporary exhibition space, which between them will contain a collection of over six million items showcasing a 2,000-year-history of London.

It is hoped the new museum will create 1,700 new jobs and double the number of visitors to the museum. 

Mark Boleat, chair of the policy and resources committee at the City of London, said: ‘This is a fantastic building, but it is derelict. What we’ve been incredibly good at in London is transforming buildings that were derelict or in a bad state of repair into fantastic new functional buildings, while retaining most of the original architecture.

‘This building is not listed, but we will be seeking to retain as much as we can of the most attractive bits, while at the same time making it a great museum – and actually you couldn’t find a better building for a museum than this one.’

The major scheme comes two years after former communities secretary Eric Pickles rejected John McAslan’s controversial plans for the historic market. An equally controversial scheme for the empty 19th-century market buildings by KPF was also blocked following a public inquiry in 2008

Early hints that the Museum of London was eyeing up a move to West Smithfield from its Powell & Moya-designed Barbican home appeared in December 2014. It later emerged that the soon-to-be-vacated museum site was being targeted as a base for a new £278 million concert hall for the London Symphony Orchestra.

Stanton Williams and Asif Khan saw off an all-star shortlist, which included BIG, Caruso St John, Lacaton & Vassal Architects and Sergison Bates, to land the £250 million project.

The winning concept was described by the judges as a ‘crisp and contemporary design with a strong recognition of the physicality and power of the existing spaces of the West Smithfield site’.

The design features a ‘lifted landmark dome’ over the entrance, spiral escalators to take visitors down to ‘vast excavated underground chambers’ and a sunken garden ‘to provide pockets of tranquillity’.

A planning application is expected to be submitted in 2018. The museum is set to open in its new home in 2022.

WINNER: Stanton Williams with Asif Khan, Julian Harrap, J&L Gibbons and Plan A [institute sketch]

WINNER: Stanton Williams with Asif Khan, Julian Harrap, J&L Gibbons and Plan A [institute sketch]

WINNER: Stanton Williams with Asif Khan, Julian Harrap, J&L Gibbons and Plan A [institute sketch]

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Khan commits millions on a deserving project, makes a welcome change from the last Mayor.

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  • For Simon Carne: Indeed - maybe cronyism is no longer the order of the day.

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