City of London scraps plan for 'Tate Modern of classical music'

Corporation says impact of Covid pandemic has made £288m Centre for Music project unfeasible

An ambitious £288m concert hall that was supposed to be “the Tate Modern of classical music” has been scrapped by the City of London Corporation, which said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic made the plan impossible to complete.

The Centre for Music was billed as being an acoustically perfect 2,000-seat concert hall for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and would have had restaurants, commercial space and a smaller venue for jazz performances.

The City of London confirmed on Thursday, however, that the project had been axed.

“Members of the City of London Corporation’s policy and resources today agreed that, given the current unprecedented circumstances, plans for a centre for music will not be progressed,” a spokesperson said.

“Alternative proposals for the site, currently occupied by the Museum of London, will be brought forward over the coming months.”

Serious doubts about the venue’s future began to circulate when the LSO’s conductor, Simon Rattle, announced in January that he was leaving the organisation to move to the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2023 for personal reasons.

Rattle was one of the driving forces behind the project, which he said would be the “great concert hall for our time” and would put London on the same level as other European cities with major landmark halls that have world-class acoustics.

The New York-based architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro had already revealed their designs for the centre, which the Guardian’s architecture critic, Oliver Wainwright, described as “a faceted ziggurat, rising from the roundabout site of the current Museum of London as an angular glass beacon”.

The decision will be another huge blow to an orchestral world already reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that has left performers and venues out of work and in doubt about when audiences will be able to return.

Funding for the project has always been controversial, with critics and figures within government saying a concert hall of that scale and cost was not needed.

The government pulled its funding for the project in 2016. The former chancellor George Osborne initially backed the scheme and spent £5.5m on a detailed business case, but his successors decided it was too costly. At the time, a spokesperson for Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, called the decision to pull the money “a vote of no confidence in London from the government”.

The City of London announced additional funding for the project in March last year, which took its investment up to £6.8m. It said no public subsidy would be required for the centre’s running costs, but the private donations that were supposed to make up the huge shortfall in funding failed to materialise.

The loss of the venue will be a blow to those who feel London is still without a venue to rival those in cities such as Paris and Hamburg, which have spent heavily on controversial and over-budget concert halls. It will also leave classical musicians and technical staff without crucial work, as many struggle with post-Brexit visa rules when applying for work in the EU.

The City of London also announced it would invest in the Barbican Centre and “upgrade the 40-year-old complex”. It said the search for a world-class architect-led team to lead the project would be launched later this year.

Contributor

Lanre Bakare

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Plan for world-class concert hall in City of London back on track
Scheme appeared derailed when government pulled funding in November, but City of London Corporation has plugged gap

Mark Brown

12, Jan, 2017 @6:52 PM

Article image
LSO's Simon Rattle launches east London music academy
Orchestras must be as diverse as cities, says conductor, who claims fewer Europeans are auditioning because of Brexit

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

13, Sep, 2018 @4:22 PM

Article image
Twist and shout: is this the Tate Modern for classical music?
Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s timber-and-glass vision for a new Centre for Music in London aims for great heights – but might not exactly reach them

Oliver Wainwright

21, Jan, 2019 @5:16 PM

Article image
English National Opera names Martyn Brabbins as music director
Respected conductor takes over from Mark Wigglesworth as company seeks stability after two years of cuts and crises

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

21, Oct, 2016 @2:34 PM

Article image
First designs revealed for new £288m London concert hall
Cost of 2,000-seat ‘centre of music’ would have to be raised from private donations

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

21, Jan, 2019 @2:20 PM

Article image
Simon Rattle to leave London Symphony Orchestra in 2023
Conductor will take up a new role with Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for ‘personal reasons’

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

11, Jan, 2021 @3:25 PM

Article image
Government pulls its funding for London concert hall
George Osborne had offered public money for Centre of Music but plan deemed too expensive by his successors

Kevin Rawlinson

04, Nov, 2016 @10:46 PM

Article image
Plans for new London concert hall move step closer after architects announced
New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro chosen from six-strong shortlist, and will work to submit a design for the building by December 2018

Mark Brown

10, Oct, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Tate Modern attacker Jonty Bravery seemed set on horrific plan
Psychiatrist says teenager who threw boy off building unlikely ever to be released

Josh Halliday

26, Jun, 2020 @10:59 AM

Article image
Tate Modern names extension after billionaire Len Blavatnik
USSR-born tycoon made one of largest donations in Tate’s history to help fund building temporarily named Switch House

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

04, May, 2017 @2:36 PM