• Kevin Murphy

London & Vancouver: New Galleries and Music Centres

Two of the worlds great cities are set to have new public gathering places with state of the art design and technology. For Vancouver it is the new Vancouver Art Gallery and for London the new Music Centre at the Barbican. Their powerful designs are expected to be pace setters when it comes to new inner city developments for attracting residents, local visitors and tourists.


The Vancouver Art Gallery designed by Herzog & de Meuron will be built on a two-acre site owned by the city in Larwell Park. Additional land at the site will be saved for future development according to a review by Architectect Magazine. The plan is to also bring together the historical neighbourhoods of Chinatown, Gaston and East Vancouver. Larwell Park has experienced its share of public events including the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the 2015 Fifa Women's World Cup.

The Vancouver Art Gallery

The Gallery has experienced increased growth with its educational and artistic programmes with the new facility proposed :

"The new Gallery building with its community spaces, 350-seat theatre, free-access galleries, complementary admission programs, and publicly accessible Resource Centre Library and archives will be a creative and cultural hub, serving as an inspiring gathering place for the entire community.Enhance Vancouver's internal reputation as a major contemporary art centre Serve as an economic stimulator by creating new employment opportunities and promoting cultural tourism."

"The new Vancouver Art Gallery will fundamentally change our ability to touch the lives of individuals through the insightful power of art."

With its new expansion the Gallery will be able to provide dedicated spaces for education programmes for 90,000 children per year for not only local children but for others around the province.

The new development will provide exhibitions including 25 Permanent Collection Galleries to show British Columbias history of indigenous artwork along with works by Canadian modernist and Post-Impressionist painter Emily Carr.

The new Vancouver Art Gallery design is described by the architects as a :

"...sculptural, symmetrical, upright building. From an urban standpoint it is a classical type: a recognizable public building along a prominent boulevard. The building has both a low and a tall component. The low component addresses human scale and street life, whilst the high one offers public visibility within the vertically dominated Downtown Peninsula."

"The low building densifies and activates the public realm around the new Vancouver Art Gallery by providing an active and accessible, continuous street front.The building contains entrances to the courtyard from all four surrounding streets. It also responds to the topography along West Georgia: the building’s roofline follows the slope of the street, resulting in a building that is consistently low throughout. In scale and materiality, it echoes the low wooden structures of early Vancouver, including those that framed Larwill Park until their demolition in the 1950s."

Additional features a courtyard for the public that will provide performances, cinema and cultural events. Exhibition galleries with artistic archives, cafe and a gallery store with a cantilevered roof design to cover the space during the winter months.

Designers Herzog & de Meuron are well known and highly regarded for their previous projects the National Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China and the repurposing of the Bankside power plant into the Tate Modern in London.


A new £288 million tapering twisted pyramid tower designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro is to be developed at the southern edge of the Barbican Centre, 140-150 London Wall, known to serve as the London Centre of Music. The state-of-the-art music project for the London Symphony Orchestra and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama will have a new concert hall, education, performance and rehearsal spaces in a report published by Architect Magazine.

Elizabeth Diller, founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro tells Dezeen:

"A vital public space seamlessly connects to the foyer and extends a welcome to everyone, with or without a performance ticket."

The area is planned to become a pedestrian public plaza and a new gateway for the City of London Corporation of its Cultural Mile with public spaces that also works to connect the South Bank and Tate Modern to the St. Pauls Cathedral, and the Barbican. This will connect the Barbican's Estates Highwalk with a multi-purpose foyer, concert hall, education programmes, commercial floors and a music venue.

The wrap around concert hall is designed for up to 2,000 with the designers expecting every seat to have a great view of performances.

Future London Centre of Music

Architect Magazine describes the design:

"The hall reconciles a bespoke and loose fit approach: tailored for exceptional symphonic sound, yet agile enough to accommodate creative work across disciplines, in a variety of genres. Acoustically controlled pods integrated into the hall seating provide visual porosity for education. A clerestory public gallery with views down towards the stage and out to the city filters daylight into the hall while providing a flexible lounge and event space. Above is the commercial offering capped by a destination restaurant and outdoor terrace with views of the city."

The very top level of the new music centre will be the Coda for contemporary performances and events with views of St. Paul's and the London skyline.

Conductor Sir Roger Norrington tells Classic FM:

“Well I wouldn’t mind a new concert hall in London – we don’t have a good one. Of course the Royal Festival Hall has improved, the sight-lines are great but the sound is not amazing. I think it would be fantastic if there was another hall – I’m used to a lot of very wonderful halls in other parts of the world.”

Sir Simon Rattle music director of the London Symphony Orchestra:

“The music-lovers of London and the country would deserve to have something where… the orchestras can flourish."

“You have no idea how wonderful an orchestra like the London Symphony Orchestra can sound in a great concert hall.”

There are critics of the plan including music critic Ivan Hewett of The Telegraph who wrote about the support of the new music centre by Sir Simon Rattle :

‘Sorry, Simon, London doesn’t need another concert hall’.

“Great art and music is created by people, not buildings… Spending many millions to build a hall to get a few more seconds’ reverberation time, and show that we’re keeping up with Paris, Copenhagen, Lucerne etc is an indulgence we just don’t need in straitened times.”

Construction of the new Music Centre is expected to be completed by sometime in 2023.

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