National Railway Museum: Central Hall Competition


Sponsor: National Railway Museum
Location: York, U.K.
Theme: Central Hall Competition
Type: Open, RfQ, two-stage, International
Eligibility: Limited to licensed architects, etc.
Language: English
Fee: none

2 October 2019 – Deadline for questions
16 October 2019 – Deadline for EOI qualifications documents
February 2020 – Exhibition of entries in York
March 2020 – Winner announced


The National Railway Museum has long been regarded as a national treasure and is ranked amongst the most popular attractions in the UK, welcoming more than 750,000 visitors each year.

The museum is currently creating a dynamic new identity for itself – from a place associated with the past, to one which uses its collections to explore the contemporary and future power of science, technology and engineering. 

In its strategic plan, the National Railway Museum’s Vision 2025, the transformed museum will juxtapose the vivid beginnings of railway history with the cutting-edge innovations shaping our world today. By celebrating the past, present and future of railways and engineering, the National Railway Museum aims to capture the hearts and minds of the next generation of engineers, innovators and thinkers.

In addition, as the cultural anchor of one of the largest city centre developments in the UK and Europe, the National Railway Museum will take a more holistic view of the purpose of a museum and explore how it can become a social and cultural resource for the city, meeting the needs of its audiences – local, national and international. The National Railway Museum in 2025 will be a must-see destination, a world-class institution and an essential part of its community.

The project at the heart of this competition, the Central Hall, will not only present a spectacular new 1,000 sqm gallery and public-facing spaces for orientation and reception, it will also be the catalyst that connects, rationalises and integrates the current museum estate.

Shortlisted teams will be provided with detailed briefing information and invited to visit York for a site tour and seminar. Internationally-based competitors may be required to propose a UK-based executive architect as part of their team at stage two.

A technical panel will review the entries and produce a report for the jury, who will conduct interviews and select a winner.

Each shortlisted team that submits a compliant entry and attends the jury interviews will receive an honorarium of £30,000 at the conclusion of the competition. 

Competition goals:
The National Railway Museum’s new Central Hall needs to:

• Be of outstanding architectural quality – the centerpiece of the museum’s wider strategic investment, Vision 2025 – and give the museum a revitalized physical presence worthy of a national cultural institution

• Present a compelling and appealing new welcome and arrival space for the National Railway Museum to position the museum as the cultural anchor for the wider York Central regeneration project

• Be the catalyst that connects, rationalises and integrates the existing museum estate

• Present a spectacular new exhibition gallery with the aim of increasing visitor numbers and encouraging return visits (note: exhibition design is not in scope)

• Embody a national museum aesthetic (rather than railway station architecture) using warm, natural materials to reference the existing site and historic buildings and showing a sense of scale that is appropriate to agreed development parameters

• Serve the needs of existing and new communities – offer a safe space to gather, learn, play and relax; practically, integrate passer-by and local pedestrian access through the site during opening hours

• Be ​‘open for all’ – exceeding expectations and minimum standards of access and inclusion

• Demonstrate a holistic approach to sustainability, from design and construction through to operations and use, to reduce operating costs by improving the museum’s operational efficiency

• Increase income generation and visitor dwell-time through improved retail, catering and event facilities

• Take advantage of the opportunities presented by the surrounding York Central development

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