DS+R in London

John Hill
22. January 2019
Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Three months after being selected to design the new Centre for Music near the Barbican, Diller Scofidio + Renfro's design for a site currently occupied by the Museum of London has been unveiled.

As is often the case with rendering reveals, first impressions prevail. In the case of DS+R's first foray into the UK, the overall rendering recalls both the Tate Modern by Herzog & de Meuron and DS+R's own Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center in New York City. The first, just across the Thames in London, has a twisting pyramidal form that DS+R must have known their design would be compared to; while the second, completed in 2016, similarly places circulation along its exterior and behind clear glass walls to activate the facades and free up functional space behind them.

Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Centre for Music – a project of the Barbican, London Symphony Orchestra and Guildhall School of Music & Drama – is planned to include a "world class concert hall and superb spaces for performance, education and rehearsal," per a statement from the institutions. DS+R's Elizabeth Diller described how their design deals with the tricky site:

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.

Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Renderings that venture inside the Centre for Music reveal other DS+R tropes, such as the wood-lined concert hall (image above, reminiscent of their reworking of Alice Tully Hall at New York's Lincoln Center), a window peeking into the concert hall (below image, akin to the window into the Broad's climate-controlled storage seen from a public route up the building), and a large window looking to the outside at the back of a venue (bottom image, recalling the ICA in Boston, with its angled window framing a view of the water from the tiered space inside).

Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The £288 million institution, which has been backed by the City of London Corporation, would be created entirely from private donations. It would be run by the Barbican, be the home of the London Symphony Orchestra, and serve as base for the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s new Institute for Social Impact. In addition to fundraising, the project is contingent upon the Museum of London moving to a larger site at West Smithfield, which is currently on track for a 2023 completion. 

Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro

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