Following years of research on the current building on the London Wall, the Museum of London concluded that the structure was not sustainable due to a limited capacity, on top of complaints about the lack of visibility in the entrance, the "roundabout" site, and the aging building overall, and has decided to relocate to a site in the area of West Smithfield. The competition to design the new location was launched in February 2016, and submissions were due in mid-March. On Thursday, the museum announced that it has narrowed down those submissions to a shortlist of six proposals. The winning design will be revealed by the end of the summer, and the new museum is scheduled to open by 2021.
The West Smithfield site includes several Victorian structures, including the Smithfield General Market, the Fish Market, the Red House, and the Engine House. The General Market, the Fish Market, and the Red House have been threatened with demolition for almost 30 years, but the plans for apartment or office complexes have been stopped by campaigns against such destructive projects. Last December, the City of London gained control over the lease for these buildings and asked the Museum of London to consider relocating. The challenge of the competition is to tie the buildings together into a fluid space while maintaining the heritage of the Victorian structures, and also introduce 21st century technology and research centers within the budget of £130 million to £150 million (approximately $146 million to $168 million).
The new location will be designed to accommodate twice the number of visitors, a growth from 1 million to 2 million a year, and will also include expanded gallery space that will allow the museum to display pieces currently stuck in storage. The new Crossrail station at Farringdon, across from the Smithfield Market building, is expected to be one of the busiest interchanges in Britain, and commercial developments are planned for the Western and Eastern Ticket Halls. Mayor Boris Johnson expressed his support for the museum's move, which he believes will allow it to "ultimately create a major cultural destination that is a new landmark for the capital."
The shortlist was determined by a subset of the jury with a team of museum advisers. The winner will be chosen by the full jury, chaired by television and radio presenter Evan Davis, including: Sonita Alleyne, founder of the UK-based Yes Programme, a program that helps connect students to the working world; Sharon Ament, director of the Museum of London; Clive Bannister, chair of the Museum of London Board of Governors and group chief executive of the UK-based insurance company Phoenix Group Holdings; David Camp, governor of the the Museum of London and chief executive of the London based real estate developer Stanhope; Dr. Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund; Sir Simon Jenkins, a journalist, author, and broadcaster; professor Robert Mull, an architect, former director of architecture and dean of the Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design, and a trustee of the Architecture Foundation; Lucy Musgrave, director of the London based consulting firm Publica; Jörn Rausing. governor of the Museum of London. Malcolm Reading, an architect and competition organizer, is the jury adviser.
The proposals from the following teams are shortlisted for the Museum of London West Smithfield International Design Competition:
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) with Hawkins\Brown, Donald Insall and Gehl Architects
Caruso St John Architects with Alan Baxter Associates
Diener & Diener Architekten with Sergison Bates Architects, East Architecture and Graphic Thought Facility
Lacaton & Vassal Architects with Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio, Allies and Morrison and Alan Baxter Associates
Stanton Williams with Asif Khan, Julian Harrap, J&L Gibbons and Plan
Studio Milou Architecture with RL& Associés and Axis Architects