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Revealed: big names make shortlist for £250m London concert hall

Museum of London
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Amanda Levete, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano all feature on the six-strong shortlist to design a major new concert hall on the Museum of London site next to the Barbican

The architects and their practices are joined by fellow finalists US firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Norwegian practice Snøhetta in the contest to mastermind the £200-£250 million Centre for Music project. A winner will be announced in the autumn.

According to the original tender notice, the winner of the commission 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.

Shortlist in full

The project is backed by the Barbican, the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. The design contract could eventually net the winner £12 million in fees if the scheme receives funding and is taken forward. 

The corporation resurrected the project in January, two months after the government dropped its support for a £278 million venue, claiming it no longer represented ‘value for money’.

The scheme aims to deliver an ‘inspiring and innovative’ venue on the 140-150 London Wall plot, which will be cleared after the museum moves to its new Stanton Williams and Asif Khan-designed home in West Smithfield.

City of London Corporation policy chairman Catherine McGuinness said: ‘It is hugely encouraging that so many leading architects from around the world have responded enthusiastically to the challenge to develop a concept design for the Centre for Music.

‘For them, it represents an exceptional opportunity to help realise the plans for this truly remarkable concert hall – outstanding in design and open to all – in the heart of the Square Mile.

She added: ‘For the key partners behind this project and the City of London Corporation, this important announcement brings everyone a step closer towards one of the most widely anticipated and significant developments in the Square Mile’s vibrant cultural hub.’

The search for a concept architect – a process branded ‘onerous and ambiguous’ by Malcolm Reading in May – forms part of a detailed £2.5 million business case for the Centre for Music, which the corporation began after the government withdrew support. A year earlier a government-backed feasibility study had endorsed the scheme.

The study, drawn up by Arup and Arup Associates among others, said London lacked a venue with ‘brilliance, immediacy, depth, richness and warmth’, and risked ‘falling behind other major cities with the proliferation of outstanding new 21st-century halls across the world’.

The report echoed the concerns aired previously by conductor Simon Rattle, who will become musical director of the London Symphony Orchestra later this year, and has previously spoken critically of the quality of London’s performance venues.

The latest business case, set to complete next year, will test whether it is viable to build the hall on the site of the museum and neighbouring office block Bastion House.

Judges include Rattle, Royal Opera House chief executive Alex Beard, LSE professor Ricky Burdett, Eva Jiricna of Eva Jiricna Architects and Publica director Lucy Musgrave.

As well as the architect finalists, the project organiser also announced the shortlisted firms for both engineer contracts:

Civil and Structural Engineer

AECOM
AKT
Arup
BuroHappold

Ramboll
WSP UK 

Building Services Engineer

AECOM
Arup
BuroHappold
Hoare Lea
Max Fordham
WSP UK 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Those who run the Barbican concert hall must be saying "what the hell," as those who own the Barbican Centre plan to build a new concert hall so close you could hear the ting of a triangle across the space.

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  • Architects usually respond enthusiastically to such a high profile competition it's in the blood. Whether it can deliver a world class concert hall on such a dog of a site is quite another matter. Invest the £280m across the midlands west and north for some real benefits as recently proposed in a letter to the financial times.

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