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Concept architect sought for new City of London concert hall

The City of London Corporation has begun the search for an architect to design a major new concert hall on the Museum of London site next to the Barbican.

According to the tender notice, the winner of the commission will draw up conceptual plans for a new ‘state-of-the-art building of acoustic and visual excellence’ on the site currently occupied by Powell & Moya’s 1976 museum.

The project is backed the Barbican, the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the design contract could eventually net the winner £12million in fees if the scheme receives funding and is taken forward,

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

The scheme 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.

Commenting on the search for an architect, Barbican managing director Nicholas Kenyon, LSO managing director Kathryn McDowell and Guildhall School of Music & Drama principal Lynne Williams said: ’Today’s announcement is the latest stage in the development of this potentially transformative cultural project.

‘Our aim is to recruit the strongest possible team of outstanding architects and experts from across the globe to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a landmark new building that inspires current and future generations through the power and excitement of live music.’

City of London lord mayor Andrew Parmley said: ‘We support the ambitious plans for a Centre for Music at the heart of the City of London, one of the finest cultural hubs in the world. This vibrant area has supported creativity and innovation to flourish across every sector and helped secure London’s position as the pre-eminent financial centre.

‘Visually striking, acoustically perfect and open to all, a new Centre for Music – facing St Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern – would be an important investment in the strength of the Square Mile and our neighbouring communities.’

City of London Corporation policy chair Catherine McGuinness said: ‘This is an important step towards the transformation of this vibrant area around the Barbican Centre and Guildhall School of Music & Drama into a world-class cultural hub. Culture, open and available to everyone, attracts people to work in, live in, and visit the Square Mile. We want to keep this vision at the heart of the City experience.’

The search for a concept architect is part of a detailed £2.5 million business case for the Centre for Music, which the corporation began after the government withdrew support. A year earlier a government-backed feasibility study had endorsed the scheme.

The study, drawn up by Arup and Arup Associates among others, said London lacked a venue with ‘brilliance, immediacy, depth, richness and warmth’ and risked ‘falling behind other major cities with the proliferation of outstanding new 21st-century halls across the world’.

The report echoed the concerns aired previously by conductor Simon Rattle, who will become musical director of the London Symphony Orchestra later this year, and has previously spoken critically of the quality of London’s performance venues.

The latest business case, set to complete next year, will test whether it is viable to build the hall on the site of the museum and office block Bastion House.

As well as a ‘world-class’ concert hall, the centre would include education, training and digital spaces; excellent facilities for audiences and performers; and significant supporting commercial areas.

Interested parties must first complete a questionnaire detailing their relevant architectural experience and intended project approach. Up to six shortlisted teams will then each receive £10,000 to submit a detailed response to the brief, a delivery plan, fee proposal and project team details.

The expected fee for the early concept work which will help inform the business case is £350,000.

A building service engineer, civil and structural engineer, acoustician and theatre consultant will be appointed separately.

Judges include Rattle, Royal Opera House chief executive Alex Beard, LSE professor Ricky Burdett, Eva Jiricna of Eva Jiricna Architects and Publica director Lucy Musgrave.

The deadline for applications is noon, 9 June.

How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Adrian Betton
The Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London
City of London Corporation
Guildhall North Wing