The Museum of London is on the move. We want to tell the extraordinary story of London and Londoners in a new museum in West Smithfield, which itself is a deeply fascinating and historic area. We want to engage Londoners with their city and its history and display many more objects from our rich collection.
We believe London is the world’s greatest city and we are uniquely placed to tell its story, but only if we have a showcase worthy enough. So our ambition is to do this at the heart of a new cultural hub in the City of London with outstanding connections to the rest of London and the world, and in doing so we will become one of London’s most top five visited museums, welcoming over 2 million people a year.
Why do you need to move?
The Museum of London is going from strength to strength but over the last 40 years we have reached capacity at our London Wall site. The number of people visiting our museums continue to grow impressively each year, with two consecutive record breaking years. We are working with more London schools than ever before and sales for our paying exhibitions are stronger than ever before, but there is still more work to do to create a museum that meets the needs of Londoners and visitors to the city.
Why West Smithfield?
The site at West Smithfield is located in the City of London and covers approximately 25,000 sq m. It comprises a series of vacant buildings including Smithfield General Market, the Fish Market, the Red House, and the Engine House. These buildings, most of which are Victorian, sit at the Farringdon Road end of West Smithfield, where records show there has been a market for nearly 1,000 years and archaeological remains go back to the Bronze Age – so there could hardly be a more resonant site for London’s new museum. Locating a new museum at West Smithfield could significantly contribute to the continuing rejuvenation of the Smithfield area and build on the opportunities presented by the new Crossrail station at Farringdon, as well as being an integral part of the City’s ever strengthening cultural hub.
What more can you tell me about the new museum?
Our vision is that the whole look and feel of the new building will embody London. On entering there will be a sense of wonderment, of worlds to explore that will explain the story of London in a compelling way and utilising collections to generate ‘atmosphere’ as well as explication.
The new museum will be able to welcome 2 million visitors a year and we will also finally be able to show never seen before artefacts from our rich collection, which are currently sat in storage due to the space constraints at our current site. It will be home and show-case to the ‘London Collection’, with increased exhibition space and a state of the art Learning Centre.
Clearly there is a lot of work to turn this vision into a reality but our search for an outstanding architect is a major first step to realising that vision.
How will you achieve this?
There is now real momentum behind the project. We have the support of the Mayor of London, the City of London Corporation, and many of our other supporters. We have started a major search for world class architects. We have a clear programme in place and are confident that in 2022 the proposed new museum at West Smithfield will open and captivate Londoners and visitors alike.
Today the Mayor of London and City of London Corporation pledged support for new Museum of London at West Smithfield. Commenting on the announcement Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “This major landmark project will be a jewel in our crown. It will reveal 2,000 years of fascinating London history for Londoners, visitors and every schoolchild in the capital. It will rejuvenate West Smithfield, protecting its heritage while also creating a dynamic new public space - strengthening London’s credentials as an international powerhouse for culture.”
Stanton Williams and Asif Khan have been announced as the winner of the international competition to find an architect to design the new Museum of London.
The design concepts from the six architectural teams shortlisted in the International Design Competition for the new museum at West Smithfield have now been revealed. The early stage design concepts, which illustrate what the new museum could look like, embrace a wide range of interpretations, all of which demonstrate high quality, creative ideas and innovation for this exciting project. The winning architects will work with the museum to refine their ideas to ensure they sensitively balance the history of the site with the museum’s ambition and that the look and feel of the new museum embodies London.
"Our job is to make this the best museum in the world,” Sharon Ament, Director of the Museum of London said, carefully stepping around pigeon droppings and pools of water in the old market, which has been empty for the last 30 years while developers and conservationists fought over its fate. “I’m desperate to keep the train line running through it – nobody else has one of those. Just imagine the people on the trains looking out and seeing a museum around them, and the people in the museum seeing the trains go by.”
We now have a shortlist of six architectural teams hoping to realise the vision of the new museum.Of the process, director of the Museum of London, Sharon Ament said: “It’s been an intriguing process so far, the range of creative architectural practices who submitted is phenomenal.The shortlist’s mix promises a fascinating next stage when the finalists’ concept designs go on display at the Museum of London this summer. I look forward to hearing the views of Londoners in the run-up to the jury reviewing the designs and choosing the winner.”
‘It’s a really 24 hour place …every moment of the day there are different people using the space.’ Lucy Musgrave, director of Publica highlights the bustling, multifaceted nature of Smithfield. In the final part of our film series we get a glimpse of the market space today. As Alan Bird, Founder Bird of Smithfield restaurant says of the area, ‘We’re at a good crossroads between the creative side, you’ve got the financial side and then you’ve got the law side…we’re a little hub'.
“People have been drawn to the area….because of its topography, its wide open spaces.” Kate Sumnall, Community Archaeologist, Museum of London. In the second of part of our Smithfield film series we learn about the religious and medical importance of the area once known as ‘Smoothfield’ as well as some of the more bloody events such as public executions and the slaughter of animals for sale.
“Smithfield is a magical place” says Lucy Musgrave from Publica. We couldn’t agree more. In the first of a three parts series on our YouTube channel exploring the history of Smithfield, we explore about our ambition to relocate from London Wall to West Smithfield by 2022. Museum of London Director Sharon Ament and others talk about what makes Smithfield so special and so unique.
The West Smithfield International Design Competition has launched. Museum of London Director Sharon Ament said: “London is brilliantly creative and brilliantly connected to the rest of the world. I cannot wait to see schemes for West Smithfield from designers working in all four corners of the globe. The challenge of sympathetically reinventing a series of fascinating and wonderful buildings and reimagining them as a museum is big, a bit scary and terribly exciting, much like London itself.” Visit the dedicated page on Malcolm Reading Consultant’s website for full details.
In an exciting development we are delighted to announce news about the West Smithfield International Design Competition. Supported by the Mayor of London and managed by Malcom Reading Consultants the two stage architectural competition will be launched in February 2016 with the winner to be announced in the summer of 2016. Sharon Ament, Director of the Museum of London, said: We hope to tantalise the world’s most creative architectural minds with the prospect of working with us on this project.”
The Museum of London is an amalgamation of two earlier museums: the Guildhall Museum, founded in 1826 and the London Museum founded in 1912. Both collections came together after the Second World War, and the current Museum of London opened in 1976.
The Guildhall Museum largely comprised archaeological material. Its first acquisition was a fragment of Roman mosaic from Tower Street in the City of London. The London Museum had wider interests, collecting modern objects, paintings, and costumes alongside archaeology.
Since 1976 the Museum of London has operated as a social and urban history museum, but maintains its archaeological interests. A second Museum was opened in 2003, Museum of London Docklands, and is housed in a Grade I listed warehouse at Canary Wharf.
1826: Guildhall Museum opens in the City of London, moving in 1872 to new premises at the Guildhall.
1912: The London Museum opens at Kensington Palace, moving in 1914 to new premises in Lancaster House.
1940s: Both museums close during the Second World War. The London Museum reopens in 1951 in Kensington Palace; the Guildhall Museum in 1955 in the Royal Exchange.
1965: The Museum of London Act amalgamates the two collections under a new Board of Governors, representing the three funding authorities: national government, the Corporation of London, and the Greater London Council.
1976: The Museum of London is opened by Queen Elizabeth II. 1986: A second Museum of London Act expands the museum’s functions and changes its funding framework, following the abolition of the GLC.
1992: Mortimer Wheeler House, a former warehouse in Hackney, becomes the museum’s main store and subsequently its archaeological hub.
2003: Museum of Docklands opens.
2009: National government’s interest in the museum passes to the Greater London Authority.
2015: The Museum of London announces an intention to move to a new museum in Smithfield General Market, with a provisional opening date in 2022.
2016: The Museum of London launches International Design Competition for an architect to design the new museum at West Smithfield.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on our proposal and what you’d like to see in the New Museum – if you’d like to contact us, or have a question for our director Sharon, please write to us in the box below or email email@example.com