Diller Scofidio + Renfro proposes design for the Centre for Music, London
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro proposes design for the Centre for Music, London

New York-based firm's concept design for the London Centre for Music brings music to all, creating a public realm for the city’s emerging cultural fabric.

by Meghna Mehta Sep 23, 2019

The concept design for the Centre for Music in London proposed by the famed architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro is an inclusive approach to bring the city, its people, its urban and cultural fabric together making music as a means. The centre not only addresses the immediate context but also the upcoming plans for the neighbourhood that are being foreseen. The firm has intricately been able to gather and cater to the needs of the actual building of course, but the various ways in which the structure can add to facilitate public spaces and ease connections within the city by connecting it to the Highwalk as well as the upcoming Culture Mile. The centre is intended to be a world-class venue for performance and education across all musical genres, brought together by three internationally recognised cultural organisations - the Barbican (an arts and learning centre), London Symphony Orchestra, and Guildhall School - to inspire new generations with a love for music. The concept design for the Centre includes a concert hall and spaces for performance, education and rehearsals. It aspires to be a place for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the joy of making music first hand.

The concept developed by interdisciplinary design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, demonstrates the potential to deliver an extraordinary new building on the site, currently occupied by the Museum of London. Elizabeth Diller, Founding Partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, said, “We want to unlock the urban potential of the Centre for Music's site at the southern tip of the Barbican by reclaiming the roundabout for the public realm, where the car’s isolating effects are keenly felt today. A vital public space seamlessly connects to the foyer and extends a welcome to everyone, with or without a performance ticket. The foyer would be abuzz day and night, filled with activity and glimpses into the inner life of the hall. We imagine a concert hall for the 21st century that embraces both a bespoke and a loose fit approach: tailored for exceptional symphonic sound, yet agile enough to accommodate creative work across disciplines and genres.”

03 min watch Video: Concept Design - Centre for Music, London | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
Concept Design - Centre for Music, London Video Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • Sketch for London Centre for Music’s ziggurat like structure | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Sketch for London Centre for Music’s ziggurat like structure Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • A sketch for the London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Sketch for the London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • Sketch of Highwalk extension for the London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Sketch of Highwalk extension for the London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro

Along with creating this outstanding new structure for London, and the whole of the UK really, the design proposes reimagining and transforming the layout and the public realm of the current Museum of London site, creating open, welcoming and traffic free public spaces, while also linking it to the Highwalk network.

The proposed site for the Centre for Music, which has been made available in principal by the City of London Corporation, sits on a key cultural axis in the capital, linking London’s important landmarks - Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and two new Elizabeth Line stations. The realisation of this proposal by Diller Scofidio + Renfro would provide a new gateway to the City of London’s emerging Culture Mile. This would not only draw visitors into an area that is set to be transformed over the next decade , but also encourage and catalyse the uplifting of new transport hubs, outdoor programmes and major enhancements to streets. The design intends to cater to the wider public realm that link the area’s existing and planned world-class cultural destinations.

  • Concept design for entry plaza, London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Concept design for entry plaza, London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • Concept design for Music Concert Hall, London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Concept design for Music Concert Hall, London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • Concept Design for Centre for Music Coda, an intimate contemporary performance and events space at the Centre for Music, London | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Concept Design for Centre for Music Coda, an intimate contemporary performance and events space at the London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • Concept design for Centre for Music Studio, London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Concept design for Centre for Music Studio, London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro

The structure attempts to bridge the association of the people of the city and the world, to music and attempts have been made through the design to make the building a part of a larger purpose for the uplifting of varied arts. Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair for the City of London Corporation said, “The proposed Centre for Music would be a landmark building in the city’s emerging Culture Mile, and arguably become regarded as the envy of the international arts, music and educational community. The initial designs by Diller Scofidio + Renfro appear visually breathtakingly, acoustically perfect, and with a stated commitment to being totally inclusive...”

Currently estimated at £288 million, the building for Centre for Music would be fully integrated with digital technology, enabling music and education activity delivered in the Centre to be distributed to a global audience. The project was commissioned in October 2017, and the next phase of work is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

04 min watch Video: Centre for Music, London | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
Centre for Music, London Video Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro

Catering to the various agencies, partners and part-takers in the process, the design not only addresses the needs of the city addresses the site that it lies in, but also intends to affect and shift the cultural, music and art to a better future. Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of the Barbican; Kathryn McDowell CBE, Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra and Lynne Williams, Principal of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama together issued a statement, “The Centre for Music would enhance the status of London as one of the world’s leading cultural capitals, delivering major new benefits to the city and the UK’s musical life, educational offer and international reputation. We believe the project would have the equivalent impact on music in the capital as the opening of Tate Modern had on contemporary art almost two decades ago.”

  • Education pod as a part for London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Education pod as a part of the concept design for London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • Concept design for Concert Hall, London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Concept design for Concert Hall, London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro

The design is divided into 4 major functions, the lowest one being the multilayer foyer that connects to the ground level which acts as the public relam. The second layer consists of a concert hall to cater to a global audience with world class amenities. The third one includes commercial floors while the fourth layer consists of an intimate music venue that floats on top of the entire stack. One can notice that each of the four layers have been treated with unique designs and individual precision based on its requirements. While they appear and function separately they are a part of the whole homogenous design of the building that serves a global purpose.

Sir Simon Rattle, Music Director, London Symphony Orchestra and Artist-in-Association, Barbican and Guildhall School of Music & Drama said, “We believe in music. We believe in London. We believe in the power of music to transform people’s lives. The idea that there can be a new cultural centre in London, in Culture Mile, and that in the middle of it, a truly great international, modern concert hall of our time, equipped for everything of this age, is very exciting. A sign of London as a dynamic cultural city, at a time when we are going to need this more and more.”

  • A model of multi-purpose foyer, London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    A model of multi-purpose foyer, London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • A model of the concert hall being added to the stack, London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    A model of the concert hall being added to the stack, London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • Adding commercial floors to the model for London Centre for Music | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    Adding commercial floors to the model for London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro
  • An intimate music venue sits at the top of the stack | London School of Music | Diller Scofidio Renfro| STIR
    An intimate music venue sits at the top of the stack, London Centre for Music Image Credit: Courtesy of Diller Scofidio and Renfro

Project Details

Name of the project: London Centre for Music
Location: London
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Collaborators/consultant: Sheppard Robson, Nagata Acoustics , Charcoalblue and BuroHappold, AECOM

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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