The Museum has outgrown its current Powell and Moya-designed building situated by a busy roundabout where London Wall and Aldersgate Street meet. With plans to relocate to West Smithfield, the Museum invited architects from around the world to contribute designs to develop the group of historic market buildings currently occupying the new site. The winning design would ensure the buildings ‘meet the needs of a 21st century museum, while also preserving the rich history of [the] great Victorian structures’.
Stanton Williams and Asif Khan beat six shortlisted architectural practices with their proposal. Developed in conjunction with conservation architect Julian Harrap, public realm consultant J&L Gibbons and design manager Plan A, the concept was judged as presenting a sense of cohesion, which paid tribute to the original Smithfield market buildings.
The design includes an enormous glass dome creating a light-filled entrance, spiral escalators which visitors will be able to take down to exhibition galleries in an excavated underground chamber and a sunken garden and well reaching down to the River Fleet, which flows under Farringdon. It may also link underground spaces with a tunnel under the Thameslink tracks, which run under the site.
Co-founder of Stanton Williams, Paul Williams, said that the scheme was influenced by the “idea of going down into the sedimentary layers of the past”. By moving the exhibition galleries underground, it was also intended to protect the collections from the damaging effects of light. Museum of London Director Sharon Ament said that the new museum would “be one of the top visitor attractions in the capital.”
Pending a deal with the owners of Smithfield a planning application is to be submitted in 2018 with the new museum predicted to open in 2022.