New Museum of London in West Smithfield

© Stanton Williams / Asif Kahn (courtesy MRC)
The challenge to design a new Museum of London in a very traditional context did not deter some of Europe’s premier modernists from entering this competition. The prize was the conversion of a building in the West Smithfield area, intended to anchor an important cultural district in the city. The new museum, which has a £130-150m construction budget, will secure the future of a series of much-loved heritage buildings at West Smithfield, help regenerate this historic part of the City of London and re-launch the museum, which has seen its audiences soar in recent years. Whereas other major capitals may only have one museum of history, the Museum of London already exists in other locations in the city, most notably in the Square Mile and the Docklands. But establishing a new museum in another location only serves to illustrate the wealth of historical materials accessible to the museum in its archives.

The Cultural Hub (from the competition announcement)

The City of London Corporation has a long history as a leading investor in the arts including the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London in the Square Mile. Together they are working to transform the area from Farringdon to Moorgate and the evolving Cultural Hub to create an unparalleled destination that is an internationally renowned, distinctive, vibrant and welcoming centre for the arts, heritage, learning and entertainment. A potential new Museum of London and a new Centre for Music are key parts of the vision for the Cultural Hub and will help to redefine this area of the City well in to the future and reinforce the City’s central role in the cultural life of the country.

© Stanton Williams / Asif Kahn (courtesy MRC)

To organize and administer the competition, the City of London Museum engaged Malcolm Reading Consultants, professional advisers for a number of museum competitions in Europe and abroad—one of the most notable involving a modern extension to the existing Mumbai City Museum in India.

The competition participants were selected via a shortlisting process limited to European architects with notable reputations. They were:
▪ Stanton Williams (UK) with Asif Khan (UK) 
▪  BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group (DK) with
   Hawkins\Brown (UK)
▪  Caruso St John Architects (UK)
▪ Diener & Diener Architekten (CH) with Sergison  Bates Architects (UK)
▪ Lacaton & Vassal Architectes (FR) with Pernilla  Ohrstedt Studio (UK)
•  Studio Milou architecture (FR) with RL&  Associés (FR) and Axis Architects (UK)

 The competition jury, primarily made up of experts not directly involved in the practice of architecture, but representing strong expertise in the museum field, consisted of the following:
▪ Sonita Alleyne, OBE, FRSA, Founder, The Yes  Programme
▪ Sharon Ament, Director, Museum of London
▪ Clive Bannister, Chair, Museum of London Board  of Governors and Group Chief Executive,  Phoenix Group Holdings
▪ David Camp, Governor, Museum of London and  Chief Executive, Stanhope;
▪ Evan Davis, Governor, Museum of London and  television and radio presenter (Jury Chair)
▪ Dr Stephen Deuchar CBE, Director, Art Fund
▪ Sir Simon Jenkins, journalist, author and  broadcaster
▪ Professor Robert Mull, Architect, Former  Director of Architecture and Dean of the Cass  Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design, and  Trustee of the Architecture Foundation;
▪ Lucy Musgrave, Director, Publica;
▪ Jörn Rausing, Governor, Museum of London;
▪ Malcolm Reading, Malcolm Reading Consultants (adviser to the jury).

As might have been anticipated, the entries represented a number of approaches, both in the way they dealt with facilities siting, as well as architectural expression. It was apparent that the jury was not so interested in any replicational approach, rather than a practical, straightforward solution to the challenge. After the final adjudication of the entries, Stanton Williams with Asif Kahn was selected as the winner According to the jury, “The winner was chosen on basis of innovative thinking, sensitivity to the heritage of existing market buildings and understanding of practicalities of creating a great museum experience.”



BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group (DK) with Hawkins\Brown (UK)



© BIG (courtesy MRC)


Caruso St John Architects (UK

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Project Name

© Caruso St.John Architects (courtesy MRC)


Diener & Diener Architekten (CH) with Sergison Bates Architects (UK)

MoL press image 01

MoL press image 02
© Diener & Diener Architekten (courtesy MRC)


Lacaton & Vassal Architectes (FR) with Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio (UK)

160527 MOL-Smithfield Poultry Avenue Corner

160527 MOL- Gallery Space Basement
© Lacaton & Vassel ARchitectes (courtesy MRC)


Studio Milou architecture (FR) with RL& Associés (FR) and Axis Architects (UK)

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© Studio Milou architecture (courtesy MRC)