International architectural competition for Barbican refurb to be launched instead

The entrance foyer at Diller Scofidio & Renfro's proposed Centre for Music

The entrance foyer at Diller Scofidio & Renfro’s proposed Centre for Music

The City of London’s jinxed £288m Centre for Music project has been scrapped.

The City Corporation made the announcement this afternoon, along with a pledge to launch an international design competition to find an architect to spruce up the Barbican Centre instead.

The concert hall scheme, designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro after a previous international competition, had been looking shaky for some time. The most recent doubts were cast last month when Simon Rattle, the conductor for whom it was being built, announced he was leaving the London Symphony Orchestra to return to Germany.

The corporation said it would “bring forward alternative proposals” for the unlisted Powell & Moya building – currently occupied by the Museum of London over the coming months.

It also said it wanted to find an architect to “reimagine” and upgrade the 40-year-old Barbican Centre.

This would include “increasing sustainability, creating new civic spaces and expanding the digital offer, while respecting its grade-II listing status”.

It promised a more accessible and inclusive approach featuring spaces for community and creative learning programmes and events across the art-forms.

Barbican Centre director Nicholas Kenyon said: “New times need new solutions. As we reimagine the City in a time of recovery, we are delighted that a major project to renew the Barbican will be launched in 2022, its 40th anniversary, updating our iconic venue in line with sustainability, climate action, and the ever-changing needs of audiences, communities, and our many performers, including our superb resident orchestra, the LSO. This will make the Barbican the creative home for the next generation.”

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The announcement will not affect plans for the Museum of London to move to Smithfield Market, in a project designed by Stanton Williams and Asif Khan working with specialist conservation architect Julian Harrap.

Diller Scofidio & Renfro's proposed Centre for Music

Source: DSR

Diller Scofidio & Renfro’s proposed Centre for Music

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the corporation, said: “Support for culture and the arts has never been more important, and we recognise that this sector will play a vital role in the post-covid recovery of the City, the capital, and the UK.”

She added: “We will continue to support our globally-renowned arts venues, and the exciting plans for the new Museum of London as they progress, enhancing London’s economic growth and reaffirming the capital’s creative sector as a major player in the economic recovery from the pandemic.”

Diller Scofidio & Renfro was appointed to the Centre for Music job, with support from Sheppard Robson, in October 2017 – beating rival teams including Foster & Partners, Amanda Levete with Diamond Schmitt, Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano in the process.