Museum of London: MOL

Museum of London Photo, MOL Galleries, Barbican Centre Redevelopment, Date

Museum of London : Building

Architecture at the Barbican Centre, England – design by Wilkinson Eyre Architects

10 Jun 2010

Museum of London Building

Grand Designs for the Museum of London

The Museum of London’s new Galleries of Modern London are a showcase for architectural and design excellence. Architects Wilkinson Eyre and the Museum’s in-house design team have transformed the building and its display spaces to deliver a new, revitalised Museum in the heart of the city.

Museum of London
MOL photo © Edmund Sumner

The innovative design increases the space by 25 per cent, creating an entirely new gallery by extending the Museum to meet the street along London Wall. Wilkinson Eyre has conjured a lighter space with the introduction of a window elevation by the Museum’s garden court to breathe new life and light into the lower level where the new galleries are situated. A glass frontage on London Wall allows visitors and passersby to see into the Museum from ground level for the first time, with the Lord Mayor’s State Coach, one of the Museum’s treasures, taking pride of place. A spectacular hanging staircase now links the spaces of the new Clore Learning Centre, and the Museum’s Weston Theatre is reborn as a truly multipurpose location for cinema, performances and talks.

Museum of London building Museum of London
MOL images © Adrian Welch

The design extends the stylistic legacy of the original architects of the Museum, Powell Moya & Partners. They developed a modernism that was shot through with humour and humanity, from the light-flooded spaces of the Churchill Estate in Pimlico, to the Skylon, a symbol of the Festival of Britain and a feature of the Galleries of Modern London. The Museum building Powell and Moya created is an icon of London design, with its bold rotunda invoking the Roman garrison whose remains sit beneath it.  This playful purposefulness is carried into the new building design. Wilkinson Eyre has democratised the building, opening it up with new views and sightlines.

Unusually, the interior design of the new Galleries of Modern London has been led by a specialist in-house team, with an intimate knowledge of the Museum’s collections. Visitors can step inside a real 18th Century prison, see an original printing press leap into life, and encounter London’s wells bubbling up.  From large-scale features, like the extraordinary LED ellipse curtain encircling the Sackler Hall, designed by Furneaux Stewart, to smaller details, such as fonts taken from street signs in the City and Westminster, the new galleries are a box of design delights.

The resin floor is embedded with the history of the capital – from Hogarth prints to Charles Booth’s poverty maps.  Immersive spaces abound: an 18th century pleasure garden featuring real trees and starry skies; a war space with a suspended bomb; an interactive river of ideas where London debates are played out amidst architectural icons from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Olympic aquatic centre.  Innovative showcase arrangements see archaeological finds displayed underfoot, West End costumes in a sweeping case curved with the moderne styling of the glamorous Selfridges lift opposite, a giant’s causeway whose many-levelled plinths step through the turbulent post-war decades, and a spectacular, specially designed case to house the houses of Tom Hunter’s photosculpture, the Ghetto.

Professor Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London, said: “The design and architecture of Museums should be as varied and surprising as the locations in which they stand. Our new galleries of Modern London have given us a wonderful opportunity to showcase how creative design can bring a new diversity of content and experience into the heart of the Museum.  Marrying the extraordinary architectural spaces opened up by Wilkinson Eyre with truly innovative interior design has gifted us a world-class Museum for a global city.  London speaks through these galleries, and it’s testament to the skill of the design teams that space has been created to make the city’s many voices heard.”

Background Information

Wilkinson Eyre Architects, with its portfolio of national and international award winning projects, is one of the UK’s leading architectural practices. Uniquely, the practice has been awarded the highly prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize two years in succession: in 2001 for the Magna science adventure centre in Rotherham and in 2002 for the much acclaimed Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Current projects include two conservatories for Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, The Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth and Guangzhou International Finance Centre, China.

The £20 million Galleries of Modern London open on 28 May 2010. They are part of our vision to create a revitalised world class museum that embodies the spirit and energy of London and its people. These spectacular new galleries are home to 7,000 objects, which tell the story of modern London and reflect the enormous changes that have taken place in the world’s greatest city since 1666. This transformation will significantly increase access to the Museum’s collections online as well as in the galleries themselves. New facilities include a Clore Learning Centre, Weston theatre and The Sackler Hall. Find out more at: www.museumoflondon.org.uk/modernlondon

Museum of London Building
photo © Adrian Welch

Museum of London, London Wall, Barbican, London
1974-76
Powell & Moya Architects

Wilkinson Eyre

Museum of London context : Barbican Centre

Barbican Centre
photo © Adrian Welch

Museum of London Redevelopment – Phase 1
2003
Wilkinson Eyre Architects

Museum of London Redevelopment
2006-09
Wilkinson Eyre Architects
£18m

Location: southwest corner of the Barbican Centre complex


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