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Winner revealed in contest to design £250m London concert hall


New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro has landed one of most significant new commissions in the UK – the project to design a major concert hall on the Museum of London site next to the Barbican

The practice, which is collaborating with AJ100 big-hitter Sheppard Robson on the scheme, saw off  Amanda Levete, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry,  Snøhetta and Renzo Piano to win the contest to develop a concept design for the £200-£250 million Centre for Music.

According to the original City of London-backed 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.

The London victory comes five years after the demise of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s only other UK scheme – its competition-winning proposal to revamp Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens (see AJ 22.08.12).

Since then the US practice has narrowly missed out on a string of high-profile schemes in the UK, including the London School of Economics’ new Paul Marshall Building, the Royal College of Arts’ £108 million extension to its Battersea campus and Manchester’s new £110 million The Factory arts space.

According to the Centre for Music judges’ statement, Diller Scofidio + Renfro had ‘most clearly met the vision and ambition of this project’. The jury praised the firm’s ‘experience of creating inspiring new spaces for culture to present a proposal that [would] deliver a world-class concert hall in an outstanding new building’.

The practice is best known for its transformation of New York’s High Line, The Broad contemporary art museum in Los Angeles, and the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center at Columbia University in Manhattan.

The Broad art museum in Los Angeles by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Broad art museum in Los Angeles by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Source: Iwan Baan

The Broad art museum in Los Angeles by Diller Scofidio + Renfro


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 Diller Scofidio + Renfro £12 million in fees if the scheme receives funding and is taken forward. 

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

The proposal 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.

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 concept design is expected to be submitted to the City of London Corporation by December 2018.

The contest judges included LSO music director Simon Rattle, who had previously spoken critically of the quality of London’s performance venues, Royal Opera House chief executive Alex Beard, LSE professor Ricky Burdett, Eva Jiricna of Eva Jiricna Architects and Publica director Lucy Musgrave.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro is working with Nagata Acoustics, theatre consultants Charcoalblue and cost consultant: AECOM.


Elizabeth Diller, Partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro 
‘My studio is very honored to be chosen from among this stellar group of architects and thrilled to have the chance to create an important cultural building for London, our first in the UK. We look forward to working with three of London’s greatest institutions and the opportunity to align their artistic, educational and civic visions for the Centre for Music.

’The new building will meet the needs of artists and audiences today with a keen eye toward the future. It will be sensitive to the inherited character of the Barbican and its vital role in Culture Mile while directly engaging the contemporary urban life of the city. We aspire to make a hub where people want to spend their time, with or without a ticket.’

Simon Rattle, music director of the London Symphony Orchestra
’This announcement is an exciting step forward in the plans for a 21st century Centre for Music that would be home to the London Symphony Orchestra. I am sure this outstanding design team will deliver plans for an exceptional new place for the enjoyment and understanding of music that is welcoming and open to all.’


Readers' comments (2)

  • Very hard to envisage such a building on the site currently. Interesting constraints including the Ironmongers livery Hall whose presence caused the Museum to be physically split. And below ground lies - to the south at least - a car park.

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  • A never never project that has only got this far by shaking around the name of Sir Simon Rattle. The idea that you need a slightly better concert hall a couple of hundred yards from the perfectly adequate Barbican Halls is ridiculous. Elizabeth Diller, it’s not going to happen. Prepare to ride a long and winding road into a scrapyard.

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