The City of London announced yesterday that in renewing its commitment to the arts “at the heart of recovery” from the COVID pandemic, the government would undertake a major renewal of the Barbican Centre, home of the London Symphony Orchestra, and the venue for numerous other performances in music, dance, film and theater, as well as art exhibitions. The 40-year-old Brutalist structure designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon is the largest performing arts center of its kind in Europe; the statement announced a search for a world-class architect-led team for the renovation.
But buried in the announcement was the real news: the cancellation, due to the “current unprecedented circumstances,” of the ambitious plans to build a state-of-the-art new Centre for Music. The press release did not bother to name the architects—Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R)—who had won a competition in 2017 to design a permanent new home for the London Symphony, beating out Foster + Partners; Gehry Partners; Amanda Levete (with Diamond Schmitt); Renzo Piano; and Snöhetta. A year later, DS+R unveiled its design for the multi-level concert hall, with an auditorium for 2,000, and numerous other amenities. But building the $370 million project was heavily dependent on private donations, according to the Architects' Journal.
"While we're disappointed that the Centre for Music will not go forward, we understand the shifting priorities that led to this decision," said DS + R partner Elizabeth Diller. "We take comfort in knowing that new funding commitments will allow the Barbican to upgrade its existing facilities and we remain hopeful that the public space initiatives driving many aspects of our design can be preserved in future plans. We will continue to support the City of London, the Barbican, LSO and Guildhall in their efforts to foreground culture as a critical component in the health and vitality of London."
The concert hall would have been the first DS+R project in the UK.