The City of London Corporation has revealed five finalist teams in the running to helm a major planned revamp of the Barbican Centre, a beloved Brutalist icon and multidisciplinary arts and cultural hub at the center of the sprawling post-war housing estate of the same name in central London. In September of last year, the City Corporation formally announced an international competition to “develop design solutions that will preserve and respect the complex’s original architectural vision and heritage, while adapting it to respond to the creative opportunities and urgent challenges of today’s world.”
The shortlisted teams are led by a slew of high-profile practices, including, perhaps most notably, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). The firm had been tapped to design the now-nixed London Centre for Music, which would have been constructed adjacent to the Barbican at the soon-to-be-former site of the Museum of London. The museum is decamping to new digs within a historic market building in West Smithfield. The highly anticipated London Centre for Music project was scrapped due in part to a lack of private funding; when announcing the project’s cancelation early last year, the City Corporation revealed that it would instead shift its focus and existing secured funds toward executing much-needed upgrades at the aging Barbican Centre. Additionally, DS+R has played a key role in the early conceptual stages of the so-called London Wall West redevelopment scheme at the Museum of London site. Anchored by twin office towers, the new development will help to finance the museum’s costly relocation—one of the largest cultural projects in Europe— to West Smithfield.
As for the Barbican Renewal Project, joining DS+R among the shortlisted firms is Adjaye Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and another practice playing a major role in the Museum of London shuffle, Asif Khan Studio.
The full teams are as follows:
Allies and Morrison and Asif Khan Studio
with Alan Baxter Ltd, Buro Happold, Charcoalblue, Hood Design Studio, Isaac Julien Studio, and les éclaireurs.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, McCloy + Muchemwa, and Purcell
with Buro Happold, Charcoalblue, David Bonnett, GROSS. MAX., L’Observatoire, Nagata Acoustics, Nigel Dunnett, North Design, Patrick Burnham OBE, The Young Foundation.
As evidenced above, some supporting firms, including Buro Happold and the London-headquartered theatre consultancy Charcoalblue, are part of multiple teams. While London-based firms dominate as team leads, there is a touch of international flavor present within the shortlist in addition to New York-based DS+R and Copenhagen-established BIG, which also maintains offices in New York, London, Barcelona, and Shenzhen: Urban design studio Schulze+Grassoy is Copenhagen-based and exhibition design heavyweight Thinc is headquartered in New York.
“We are delighted at the response we received from design teams, and the five shortlisted consortia combine the creative talents of some really impressive established and emerging architectural practices,” said Tom Sleigh, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Barbican Centre Board, in a statement. “We’re looking forward to hearing their plans for how they can work with us to deliver this exciting scheme.”
The winning team will be announced in April of this year.
Referring to the Barbican as a “much-loved global icon,” Sleigh added that the Barbican Renewal Project will “harness the visionary ambition of the City of London Corporation forty years ago, which chose to build the Centre, and make the venue ready for another four decades, continuing and amplifying the brilliant artistic achievements since then. Crucially, this project will strengthen the Barbican’s ability to play a leading role in the recovery of the City and the capital from the pandemic.”
The construction budget for the expansive revamp is estimated in the range of $68 to $204 million ( £50 to £150 million). Per a press announcement, the winning design team will be asked to develop a range of options that would be deliverable at different budget levels. Each shortlisted team will receive an honorarium of roughly $27,000.
As for the scope of the Barbican Renewal Project, the City Corporation detailed that it will entail “upgrading venues, bringing underused spaces back to life, and improving the welcome, wayfinding and digital technology at the site, reflecting the energy of London’s many communities and the Barbican Centre’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.” Sustainability-minded fixes will also play a prominent role as the City Corporation has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon status for its own operations by 2027 and its investment and supply chain by 2040 as part of its Climate Action Strategy.
More info on what’s in store at the Barbican can be found here, and AN will report back in April when a winning team has been appointed.