A new museum for London
A new museum for London
We have embarked on an extraordinary journey to create a new museum for London. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reconceive what a museum for London can be. On this website, you can find out more about the plans, the journey we have been on to date and the next steps we are taking to reach our goal of opening in West Smithfield as The London Museum from 2026.
This includes information about the updated planning application that the Museum’s design team is submitting in the coming months to respond to new planning policies since 2020.
The new museum will sit in atmospheric but currently dilapidated market buildings, at the heart of one of the capital’s most historic and creative quarters, Smithfield.
They are a perfect home for a new Museum of London: not shiny new buildings or a grand old palace, but very special market structures grounded in the working and trading history of the city.
Moving to Smithfield from our current site at 150 London Wall means that we will be able to do so much more, for many more people. It will give us street-level entrances in a wonderful neighbourhood, better transport links courtesy of the Elizabeth line, and the opportunity to create innovative new galleries, exhibitions and events.
We have developed a way of thinking about the main spaces that is based on time – the immediacy of real time, the shared experience of our time, the endless fascination of past time, the interrogation of our collections in deep time, the temporary time of changing exhibitions, and the creativity of imagined time. This will shape how we curate the museum’s content and experiences.
Real TimeArriving at the museum
Most visitors will arrive on foot, probably from Farringdon station. The new Elizabeth line will serve this station, along with the existing Thameslink and tube lines, making it one of the busiest in London. They will be invited to enjoy the diverse character of the local area as they walk to the museum. We will encourage visitors to come on two wheels as well – we love cycling – and…
OUR TIMETHE GENERAL MARKET
This space, with its beautiful dome, will be where we join with partners and visitors to share our lived experience of London. The space was designed to operate ‘in the round’, and we will honour this intent. It will be a sociable place, with a restaurant, a bookshop for London, a Show Space for learning events, and rich displays on London within living memory. Everyone who enters will bring their…
PAST TIMEBENEATH THE GENERAL MARKET
Visitors will descend from the General Market to find another world below. Here a journey though London’s past will be set within a spectacular underground space. Its exposed ceiling and atmospheric vaults will reveal its unique sense of place. Within this space Atelier Brückner will design object-rich, theatrical, sensory and interactive displays, full of human drama over more than 10,000 years. They will showcase the unrivalled breadth of our London…
Deep time, temporary time, imagined timeThe Poultry Market
As visitors enter the Poultry Market, a view will open up of its glorious ceiling, seemingly floating above. Large windows running the length of the building will bring daylight in and offer views through to the sky above. The feel of this space will change through the day and night and with the seasons. In the former cold stores below will be a portal to the London Collection. A working…
The Annexe buildings hold great potential to expand the cultural presence in West Smithfield, creating a campus that will truly transform the area. Removal of the 1960s infill will enable a sensitive architectural intervention that stitches together the two buildings and reveals their striking decorative elevations.
The design creates a large covered arena, open on one side to the street. This will provide a great new public space for performances and installations, making it an ideal venue for museum activities. We are beginning to imagine the possibilities of these streets by staging a series of festivals in the area, working collaboratively with many exciting partners. Over the coming years, we will continue to invite London to join us at great Smithfield events.
Historic buildings a new museum
Smithfield is a Conservation Area, and the Poultry Market is Grade II listed. Our design approach will pay careful attention to the balance between the red brick and stone of the General Market and Annexe buildings and the modern concrete, glass and copper aesthetic of the Poultry Market. The architects’ vision melds these buildings through contemporary interventions, such as the entrance portals to West Poultry Avenue and the canopy between the Red House and Fish Market.
The story so far
The latest chapter in our long history as the city’s museum began in 2015. The City of London Corporation asked us to consider whether the market buildings at the western end of Smithfield might make an appropriate new home for the museum. A detailed options appraisal concluded that they would.
In 2016, we ran an international architectural competition. From a 100-strong field, we appointed Stanton Williams Architects and Asif Khan with Julian Harrap Architects. We were excited by their melding of a sympathetic approach to the buildings with their ideas for creating a truly contemporary museum.
For the next four years we set about exploring the buildings in minute detail, developing our design proposals and mapping complex museum requirements into the spaces – from object stores and conservation laboratories to extensive galleries, learning spaces, shops and cafes. At the same time, we engaged with thousands of Londoners, who helped shape the vision for the new Museum.
In June 2020, the City of London Corporation’s Transport and Planning Committee voted in favour of the plans in June 2020, paving the way to making the move a reality.
Since then, we have continued with a programme of enabling works which has included:
• Sensitively repairing and refurbishing the roof and perimeter roof of the General Market and the structures holding them in place;
• Replacing the existing pavement lighting on Farringdon Street, Charterhouse Street, West Smithfield and Snow Hill; and,
• Creating new service openings along both sides of Snow Hill and levelling and bringing to curb height the existing road surface to allow for vehicular access.
These works have stabilised the fabrics of historic buildings that make up the site and started to prepare them for the main works at West Smithfield.
You can find out more about these applications by searching on the City of London Corporation’s planning portal using the reference numbers listed alongside each of the below:
• Tunnel lids (Ref: 19/01215/FULL, granted on 26 February 2021)
• General Market Roof works (Ref: 20/00789/FULL, granted on 8 January 2021)
• Internal Works Certificate (Ref: 21/00183/CLOPD, granted on 28 May 2021)
• Alterations to the roof, pavement lights and Snow Hill (Ref: 21/00800/FULL, granted on 27 January 2022).
The world’s greatest city deserves the world’s greatest museum. This major landmark project will be a jewel in our crownSadiq Khan, Mayor of London
This stunning new museum – breath-taking in design, inclusive by nature and a landmark by definition – will be a welcome addition to the City of London’s Culture Mile.Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman of the City of London Corporation
Ask For Janice- Bar & Restaurant
‘We can’t wait for the new Museum of London to move in nearby!
We’ve been open for 5 years now, serving the very best locally-sourced food and drinks and we love the sense of community in the area. We were also involved with the Smithfield 150 celebrations and had a great weekend not just for the business but it was really great to see what the museum can bring to this place.’
Fabric’s been London’s local dance spot and international melting-pot for 20 years now, attracting thousands of people every week from the capital and beyond. The Museum of London moving in just down the road will be a great addition to Culture Mile and what’s already a buzzing, diverse area. We’ve worked closely with them in the past and we support each other’s future plans. They are our friends and we’re excited that we’ll soon be neighbours, collaborating further wherever we can.Cameron Leslie, Founder of Fabric
Having been involved since the inception of this project in 2015, it is exciting to see it take shape. The opportunity the new museum will present in transforming the Smithfield area of London and providing an inspiring destination for millions of visitors and in particular London’s young people, is unparalleled.Justin King CBE, New Museum Ambassador
Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra
Culture Mile is already making waves in the Square Mile, bringing together the best of the area’s cultural institutions from world leading orchestras, ambitious and dynamic music and drama students to the very best of arts and museum programming we really do have it all. The new Museum of London will bring new life to West Smithfield and create space for the ambitious plans for the new Centre for Music after it has moved.
Where we are now
Since the application was first prepared back in 2020 there have naturally been changes to planning and environmental policies at the City of London Corporation and the Greater London Authority (including updated London Plan).
To respond to these, we have submitted an updated planning application which reflects these changes and ensures that the new museum will continue to align with the City of London Corporation’s own ambitions, not least around sustainability.
The updated application however does not materially alter the plans in a way that would be perceptible to those who are familiar with the scheme, nor detract from the ambitions we have for the London Museum.
The minor updates proposed are technical changes that have come about as part of what is referred to by the Royal Institute of British Architects as ‘Stage Four’ of the design process. During this stage, the plans are completed to a point whereby they are ready for the main manufacturing and construction stages.
This work has seen small alternations such as to the layout and location of plant facilities, doors, glazing and stair and lift arrangements.
The updated application was submitted earlier in 2022 and approved by the Planning and Transportation Committee in November 2022.
The planning application from the museum covers the General Market and Poultry Market, where the new museum will be based, and a suite of buildings known as The Annexe, which includes the Fish Market, Red House and Engine House. A Listed Building Consent Application for the Grade II-listed Poultry Market has also been secured.
The next steps
The Museum closed our main site at London Wall as a visitor attraction in December 2022, to facilitate the relocation and begin the process of sorting and moving thousands of objects from the London Collection.
The closure was marked with two spectacular free weekend festivals to celebrate the museum’s 45 years at London Wall and we remain on track to open the doors of our new West Smithfield home in 2026 when we will become The London Museum.
With the updated application approved, we are looking to start the main phase of construction works in early to mid-2023. The project plan anticipates a three-year build period, which should ensure that we are ready to open to the public by our target date of 2026.