Building Design’s former Young Architect of the Year beat 75 entries

National Railway Museum winning concept by Feilden Fowles_01_Approach

National Railway Museum winning concept by Feilden Fowles - approach

Feilden Fowles has won an international design competition to create a new central hall for the National Railway Museum.

The practice, which was Building Design’s YAYA winner in 2016, beat a shortlist featuring Carmody Groarke, Heneghan Peng and France’s Atelier d’Architecture Philippe Prost. 6a, working with Belgium’s Kersten Geers David Van Severen, completed the line-up which was whittled down from 75 entries from 19 countries.

Each shortlisted team will receive an honorarium of £30,000.

Fergus Feilden, director of Feilden Fowles, said: “We’re thrilled to win this nationally significant competition. The brief combined three of our passions – museum architecture, great railway architecture of the 19th century and working in Yorkshire.”

The practice designed the Stirling-shortlisted Weston visitor centre at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

National Railway Museum winning concept by Feilden Fowles_02_Central_Hall

National Railway Museum winning concept by Feilden Fowles - Central Hall

He added: “Central Hall is both a tremendous challenge and a unique opportunity to create a new face and connected experience for the museum. We can’t wait to start work with such a fantastic client.”

He said the practice’s winning concept made reference to the history of locomotive roundhouses and railway turntables with its central two-storey rotunda. This is clad with recycled patinated copper and lit with high clerestory glazing intended to intrigue visitors approaching from the direction of York station.

The rotunda will also unify the diverse buildings that make up the existing site. It will contain a welcome and orientation space capped by an engineered ceiling, stitched together with radials of UK-sourced Douglas Fir, described by the jury as a spectacle.

National Railway Museum winning concept by Feilden Fowles_04_Exhibition_Hall

National Railway Museum winning concept by Feilden Fowles - Exhibition Hall

A first-floor balcony offers views of York, while at ground level five different doors will lead to different parts of the museum.

The adjacent double-height exhibition hall will use the same grid as the existing station hall and celebrate its brick arched openings.

Feilden said the design concept was an expression of the team’s low-tech philosophy, dramatically reducing reliance on concrete and steel to lower embodied carbon through a crafted timber-frame structure.

A combination of passive design principles and active systems are proposed to reduce the site-wide operational carbon footprint by 80%. Recycled copper and local York stone are also suggested as part of this strategy.

The museum, part of the Science Museum Group, is set to become the cultural anchor for the 45ha York Central project, one of the largest city centre brownfield regeneration projects in the UK. In 2018-19 it had 782,000 visitors.

National Railway Museum winning concept by Feilden Fowles_03_Axonometric

National Railway Museum winning concept by Feilden Fowles - Axonometric

>> See the other finalists: National Railway Museum reveals concept designs for new central hall


The competition, run by Malcolm Reading Consultants, was judged by, among others, Michael Squire of Squire & Partners, Gitta Gschwendtner, director of Gitta Gschwendtner Design Consultancy, Zoe Laughlin, director of the Institute of Making and Karen Livingstone, director of masterplan and estate at the Science Museum.

Livingstone said: “The winning proposal has presence and a confident identity, but also humanly scaled spaces that balance the more industrial character of the museum’s Great Hall and Station Hall.

“This early design concept shows an understanding of railway heritage through a contemporary museum aesthetic that also refers to classical museum design, where large circular orientation spaces enliven the visitor’s journey through the collection.”