The Museum of London has announced it will close at the end of 2022, as preparations begin to move it from its current location on London Wall to a new site in West Smithfield.
Work has been ongoing on the move since its announcement in 2015. Along the way, several high-value tenders have been advertised for different elements of the project, from its naming and branding, to exhibition design and overall building design.
Design Week has been reporting on the development of the project since 2015. Here’s everything we know:
West Smithfield has been chosen for the new site of the museum. The more central location fits in well with the museum’s plan to become a “world-class, 24-hour cultural destination” within the city.
The building is being designed by an architectural team comprised of Asif Khan, Stanton Williams and Julian Harrap Architects. The team was chosen for its “innovative thinking” around the project.
Known for its historic meat market, the new Smithfield site does come with existing architecture. The museum has pledged to keep the “found condition of the existing buildings to ensure their richness and character are not only retained but become an important part of the museum experience”.
The museum will be taking over a series of derelict buildings within the larger market campus, which have stood empty for decades.
Beyond the building itself, the museum has revealed it will also be taking over a series of terraced houses which sit along the perimeter of the new site. The “museum high street”, as it has been dubbed, will become home to independent shops, cafes and social enterprises.
Stanton Williams principal director Paul Williams has said the aim is to “transform the historically charged but derelict parts of the late 19th century West Smithfield market into a living museum for the 21st century”.
Many original elements will therefore be preserved, including the historic divide between the original market space and the Grade II-listed poultry market.
The general market has been earmarked as a “social space” according to the designers. A restaurant will be built, alongside displays about London and its recent history.
The poultry market will be transformed into a space for temporary exhibitions.
So far, two high-value tenders have been put out for semi-permanent and permanent exhibition spaces. The first was advertised in March 2019, and the second in June 2020. They were worth £7.5 million and £2 million respectively.
The London Story exhibition space will be designed by Atelier Brückner, the museum has confirmed. It will be located in the site’s vast subterranean spaces, which will house much of the museum’s collection and span 10,000 years of history.
Integral to the offering will be dedicated space to showcase the Cheapside Hoard – a collection of jewellery from the 16th and 17th centuries which was discovered more than one hundred years ago by workmen working in Cheapside.
There are some challenges ahead for Atelier Brückner, as the studio says it is likely to be the only museum gallery in the world with a live railway running through it.
The Museum of London is unable to confirm who is designing the second exhibition space.
In August 2020 the museum launched a search to find a team to deliver a new identity. This project is now being led by Uncommon Studio and Something More Near.
While the final visuals for the branding of the museum will not be available until the end of the year, the museum says, curious parties will be interested to hear that the museum has confirmed it will be changing its name ahead of the move to the new site.
The Museum of London will become London Museum, as it seeks to be “reborn” at its new site, according to Sharon Ament, director of the museum.
Given the scale of the project, budget and timelines have caused the most disruption.
The initial budget for the museum relocation was £250 million, but this was revised to £332 million in 2019 and then £337 million in 2020.
Similarly the timeline has been subject to several pushbacks. Originally the new site was supposed to open this year – however current estimates suggest it will open in 2025 now.
As the museum prepares to close later this year, it has announced a summer festival will take place which will celebrate its 45 years at London Wall. More information will be available on this closer to the time.
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