A tall twisting tower is set to rise on the site of the Museum of London, as the new home for a large concert hall.

Source: Consultation documents

The Museum of London is in the process of moving down the road to Farringdon, leaving its old site vacant, and although part of the argument for the move was the poor current site for a cultural venue, it was quickly snapped up for a concert hall.

The first indications of what will rise on the site have now been released by the architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who have a vision of a timber and glass twisting pyramidic tower. The tower will house a 2,000 seat concert hall, with smaller spaces as the site rises, and the ever-necessary “bar with a view” at the very top.

Source: Consultation documents

The aim should see the current roundabout pedestrianised, making access more visible, and will tie in with the highwalk to the Barbican.

The ground foyer would then lead up to the series of spaces above through open plan floors.

Source: Consultation documents

The choice of wood as the primary material also marks the building out in striking contrast to the Barbican and the SouthBank with their use of brutalist concrete.

The various organisations supporting the bid will spend the rest of the year on their plans. They’re in no hurry as nothing can be done until the Museum of London vacates the site, which is not expected until the mid 2020s.

If built, then the Centre for Music would be run by the Barbican, and would be the home of the London Symphony Orchestra and the base for the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s new Institute for Social Impact.

Source: Consultation documents

Alongside making a site available in principle for the Centre for Music, the City of London Corporation provided £2.5 million in funding for the Barbican, London Symphony Orchestra and Guildhall School of Music & Drama to complete a detailed business case for the project, which was submitted in December 2018.

This has been followed by a further £2.49 million to deliver the next stage of the project’s development throughout 2019.

The final bill for the new concert hall is expected to come in at around £288 million.

The site is also giving over a large portion of the building to commercial occupiers, as the long-term aim is for the building to run without ongoing public subsidy.


Even accepting that it’s only a render, it’s impossible to believe that the concert hall space would end up as shown — simply because they’re encouraging people to sit on the very edge of steep drops with no protection.

A few glasses of wine followed by a standing ovation could decimate London’s cultural elite.

Source: Consultation documents


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  1. Steve Platt says:

    I’m curious about the pedestrianisation of the roundabout. Is this more than just a wish? If so, it would be great news to add to the very successful pedestrianisation of other gyratories (notably Trafalgar Square but an increaszing number of other examples too).

    • Chris Rogers says:

      They’re only pedestrianising the south of the roundabout, the road will remain to the north

    • Mea says:

      I actually find Trafalgar Square a bit of an eyesore now. I don’t approve of the loud polluting noise, and cheap acts on the North pavement, alas. Urban squalor.

  2. Clive Page says:

    The design looks like a very poor pastiche of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. But, as you say, the problem with the Museum of London site is its inaccessibility: the nearest tube station is Barbican with poor services and still several minutes walk away. A concert hall will have thousands leaving all at once, which will swamp it. I don’t understand why they don’t leave the MoL where it is, and design a concert hall on the Smithfield Market site instead of trying to move the museum there. There is surely plenty of space there, and it’s only a very short distance from Farringdon station with Circle/Met/Ham&City, Thameslink, and Crossrail connections, which will surely cope with the flows of people involved in a concert hall much better.

    • MissB says:

      St Paul’s Underground is a short walk away as is the new Farringdon Station. Also a quick walk to Moorgate and Bank using Barbican wAlkways.

  3. David Smith says:

    Timber and glass, £288 million, 40 years max before it needs replaced. Build to last and not to enter some meaningless architects award competition.

    • Sykobee says:

      Tell that to the Sakyamuni Pagoda of Fogong Temple in China. 900 years old, timber.

      Anyway, I’m sure this is made of CLT (Cross Laminated Timber), which is incredibly strong and resistant.

      “CLT is a true wonder material. Made from thin layers of wood criss-crossed and stuck together with fire-resistant glue, this “plywood on steroids” is claimed to be as strong as structural steel; alternating the direction of the grain offsets the weaknesses in any given plank and stops the material warping if it gets wet. It’s made into massive, flat panels up to six metres (20ft) wide and 20 inches (50cm) thick that can be used whole, to form entire walls, floors or part of a roof.”

    • Clive Page says:

      Agreed it’s only a few minutes from the MoL to St.Paul’s underground, but the point is that the Smithfield site, soon to be vacant, is right on top of Farringdon. With rail links North-South (Thameslink), East-West (Crossrail) and on the Circle Line it has the best transport links of anywhere south of King’s Cross/St.Pancras. It just seems to me a much better site for a concert hall where thousands will enter and leave en masse than the London Wall roundabout where entering and leaving the Museum of London is simply awful – a matter of hunting for the escalator (usually broken) and instead walking up lots of stairs and around narrow walkways to find the almost hidden entrance.

  4. Andrew Gwilt says:

    The whole design of the musical tower looks really weird. But I think it will be interesting to see it built.

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