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Layers of London - markets, music and museums

At our recent ‘Cultural regeneration and cities’ forum at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London, we discussed the current vision for creating new cultural districts in the capital and their future impact.

The Museum of London will be moving to West Smithfield where Roman bones lie buried and Dickens described the market as representing the destruction of society by the desire for money. In Great Expectations, Pip enters London for the first time, entering the market 'asmear with filth and fat and blood and foam'.

Stanton Williams Co-founder, Paul Williams, described how the future museum's design will take the visitor down through the layers of history, from light to dark, with a window on Thameslink with trains rattling through tunnels. Watch his video clip above.

Answering the need for cultural venues to be open and attract a wider community, Paul went onto describe how the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden now has an enlarged foyer which is a venue in itself. The sense of impromptu events and sense of surprise, that can bring people back to a museum or cultural centre has become increasingly important, he stated.

Also critical, he pointed out, is the reality of London as a 24-hour city, and as the new Museum of London needs to embrace Smithfield’s heritage of night-time markets. so the Royal Opera House has successfully developed daytime activity and visitors.

Stanton Williams is one part of a design team including Julian Harrap Architects, Asif Khan and Sharon Ament’s Museum of London team. ‘Museums are the new social space’ said Sharon, who also spoke on our panel discussion, and she remarked that the Museum of London, despite its current fortress location on a roundabout on London Wall – the ‘most unimagined museum’ – will move to Smithfield opening up the whole area.

The old Museum site is intended as the location for the new £288 million Concert Hall for London, a project being led by Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO. Sharon said that the design for this set of venues will be a wonderful addition to the ‘Cultural Mile’, complementing the Barbican Centre, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the new Museum of London at Smithfield.

Sharon stated: ‘Culture Mile is happening already…but like Exhibition Road (in South Kensington), Covent Garden, and East London, cultural districts take a long time. It’s about paying attention to curating the space, setting up the principles on what sort of organisations should participate, and how can we get the mix of large and small businesses right.’

Chief Operating Officer of Sadler’s Wells, Britannia Morton, then commented on how the famous dance and arts organisation was creating new venues in East London:

‘We are very concerned with new forms of dance, but a lack of a mid-scale venue has been holding us back, so we are building a new 500 seat theatre on the ‘East Bank’ at Stratford – near the new V&A and UAL’s London College of Fashion - and 6 new dance studios, including more training for choreographers and an academy for 16-20 year-olds for hip-hop. We are doing a lot of work with schools, as dance is suffering on the national curriculum.'

See more detail on this important discussion through our detailed report, to be published soon.

Aerial view of the Smithfield market buildings below showing the location of the new Museum of London which will benefit from the opening of Crossrail.

Aerial view of Smithfield market buildings with Horace Jones' General Market left centre - site for Museum of London - and Farringdon Crossrail station just to north.

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