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Studio Egret West and Hawkins\Brown win Smithfield Market contests

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Studio Egret West and Hawkins\Brown have won a pair of competitions to regenerate the City of London Corporation’s Grade II*-listed Smithfield wholesale market complex

Studio Egret West defeated finalists Eric Parry Architects, Haworth Tompkins, Periscope and WilkinsonEyre to win a contract to transform the 150-year-old Horace Jones-designed East and West Market buildings, currently used for trading meat, into a mixed-use commercial, creative and cultural quarter.

Hawkins\Brown, meanwhile, beat Belfast’s Hall McKnight, BIG of Copenhagen, Studio Egret West, and VOGT with Publica to win the rights to create a public realm vision for a new ‘high-quality, human-centred, and integrated’ civic space surrounding the historic structures, which are due to be vacated following the planned future relocation of market activities to Dagenham Dock.

City of London Corporation policy chair Catherine McGuiness said: ‘These Smithfield buildings and the wider area are a key part of the Square Mile that will serve as a gateway for even more visitors once the Elizabeth Line opens. We are confident that these two firms and their partners will be able to help bring our vision for these historic buildings to life, while creating exceptional public spaces around them.

‘This is a significant step forward in our journey to deliver on our wider ambition to create a vibrant and new world-class Culture Mile at the heart of the historic Square Mile. Alongside the new Museum of London, these plans will create exciting, new creative uses and public spaces, attracting workers, residents and new visitors to the area alike, as well as meeting our obligations to improve air quality.’

Smithfield, which is on the City’s north-west fringe, has been a centre of market trading for more than 800 years. The current market complex – featuring extensive basements – was created in the mid-19th century and is open for trading every night from Monday to Friday.

Smithfield’s neighbouring disused General Market, Fish Market, Red House and Poultry Market are due to be transformed into a £332 million new home for the Museum of London, designed by Stanton Williams, Asif Khan and Julian Harrap Architects. That project is due to complete in 2024.

Smithfield and its surrounding area are expected to witness a surge in visitors following the opening of the Elizabeth Line, now expected in late 2021. Last year, the City launched a public consultation on plans to relocate and combine its existing wholesale markets – Smithfield, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields – at Dagenham Dock in east London.

The initiative will see the three historic markets – trading meat, fish, and fruit and vegetables – repositioned on a waterfront site with key road and rail connections, which could help to tackle traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The latest redevelopment project – planned to complete in 2025 – will see the East and West Market buildings, their basements and a neighbouring Grade II-listed rotunda converted into a mixed-use hub for independent and creative-led businesses.

Studio Egret West’s winning scheme – drawn up with Alan Baxter Associates, Donald Insall Associates and meanwhile use specialist This Must Be The Place – reimagined the market halls as a new exposition space featuring a grand avenue, food hall, underground farm, exhibition area, health and wellbeing zone and flexible showcasing space.

The practice’s founding director David West said: ‘Thanks to [connections] that did not exist previously, Smithfield is set to attract a new influx of people and, should the meat market move, Smithfield Market could be transformed in a highly flexible and imaginative way, creating a place for meeting and making, growing and exchanging, exposition and entertainment.

‘Similar to the Great Exhibition of 1851, imagine the spectrum of innovations celebrated in the newly opened-up market halls of Smithfield.’

As part of the scheme, the surrounding land will be upgraded to form a new public civic space intended to support and enhance emerging strategies for the district such as the Culture Mile.

Hawkins\Brown’s scheme will deliver a series of ‘appropriate and imaginative’ spaces which introduce new greenery and respond to the historic street patterns of the area stretching from Farringdon Street to Aldersgate.

Practice partner and head of urban design Darryl Chen said: ‘This is a unique challenge to reimagine the identity of an entire area for the enjoyment of London’s residents and its visitors. Our initial scheme is based on the idea of the field – returning the area’s lanes and rat-runs into a single identifiable place that provides a range of settings for civic activities.

‘The design of public spaces could really blur boundaries between inside and outside and redefine how culture is expressed in the public realm. Our practice has been long-time residents of Farringdon and we look forward to revealing the stories and significance it has had for many in the area.’

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