Stanton Williams and Asif Khan have won the contest to design the Museum of London’s new home inside the historic Smithfield market complex
Working alongside conservation expert Julian Harrap, the architects saw off an all-star shortlist, which included BIG, Caruso St John, Lacaton & Vassal Architects and Sergison Bates, to land the £150 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’.
Stanton Williams and Asif Khan’s proposal to re-house the museum, which is currently based in the Barbican, was hailed as the ‘clear winner’ in the Malcolm Reading Consultants-organised contest.
The shortlist in full
- Stanton Williams with Asif Khan, Julian Harrap, J&L Gibbons and Plan A [Winner]
- Lacaton & Vassal Architectes with Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio, Allies and Morrison and Alan Baxter Associates [Honourable mention]
- BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group with Hawkins\Brown, Donald Insall and Gehl Architects
- Caruso St John Architects with Alan Baxter Associates
- Diener & Diener Architekten with Sergison Bates Architects, East Architecture and Graphic Thought Facility
- Studio Milou architecture with RL & Associés, Axis Architects and Alan Baxter Associates
Television presenter and economist Evan Davis, who chaired the jury, said: ‘The jury knew it would be a difficult choice and that’s what it turned out to be. We had six fantastic teams on the shortlist; each had ideas for the site that were both ambitious and interesting.
’I would never have guessed that you could take wonderful old buildings like that and turn them into a new museum in so many completely different ways.
He added: ‘But after a lot of discussion, a clear winner emerged. Stanton Williams and Asif Khan offered some really innovative thinking, and managed to combine a sensitivity to the heritage of the location, with a keen awareness of the practicalities of delivering a really functional museum.’
Paul Williams, director of Stanton Williams, said: ‘Encountering the historic market spaces for the first time in early April this year, we were blown away by the power and physicality already existing, and knew then that, whatever scheme we developed, this physicality needed to be harnessed, and not lost. That initial observation has inspired our initial design proposals. This project will engage a broad community well beyond London.’
The competition 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.
The winning team will now work with local stakeholders with a view to submitting a planning application 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]