National Railway Museum launches design competition for new Central Hall

Stage two honorarium of £30,000 will be awarded to at least five finalists

National Railway Museum
© Ravage Productions / Malcolm Reading Consultants
  • Two-stage competition to design new centrepiece building for York museum, which aims to become the ‘World’s Railway Museum’ by 2025
  • Stage two honorarium of £30,000 will be awarded to at least five shortlisted teams, who will be asked to produce design concepts
  • Integrated design teams invited to submit Expression of Interest by 14:00 BST Wednesday 16 October 2019

The National Railway Museum and Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) today [10 September 2019] launched the National Railway Museum Central Hall Design Competition.

The museum, part of the Science Museum Group, is poised to become the cultural anchor for York Central, one of the largest city centre brownfield regeneration projects in the UK and Europe.

York Central will re-route a major road that currently bisects the museum’s site, separating two of its main galleries, Great Hall and Station Hall. The new Central Hall, a circa 4,500 sqm building with a £16.5 million construction budget, will bridge the space between these two exhibition halls. The new addition is intended to create an appealing and compelling arrival experience and improve legibility and connectivity across the wider site.

This historic opportunity to integrate the estate — together with the wider regeneration, which is projected to give a £1bn+ boost to the local economy — will enable the museum to renew its physical presence and identity.

The new building will include reception spaces, as well as a spectacular 1,000 sqm gallery intended to showcase future acquisitions and innovative technology and introduce the museum’s world-class collection. Shortlisted teams will also be able to propose some enhancements to the adjoining museum buildings; this additional work (no more than £10m construction budget) being contingent on the post-competition concept design (RIBA Work Stage 2).

The museum plans to relaunch in 2025, exactly 50 years after it first opened. The emblematic Central Hall, along with the museum’s other strategic Vision 2025 initiatives, will enable the museum to welcome an estimated 1.2 million visitors annually.

This two-stage competition is open to both national and international integrated design teams that include architects and structural, civil and services engineers (please note: exhibition design is not in scope). Competitors should demonstrate exceptional design talent and creative flair, along with sensitivity to the heritage context and expertise in sustainability.

Full details about the competition, including the Search Statement and how to enter, can be found on the competition website.

The first stage deadline is 14:00 BST Wednesday 16 October 2019.

Judith McNicol, Director of the National Railway Museum, said:

‘It’s hard to over-state the importance of the Central Hall to our future. It will bring unity to our site, connecting historic buildings, and providing a stunning new welcome to our museum for audiences from around the world.
‘But perhaps more important than the functional role it will play, the Central Hall will be at the heart of our mission to make a telling contribution to the contemporary rail renaissance. It will be a place where we can showcase the cutting-edge innovations of today alongside the engineering triumphs of the past. A place where we can inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists, inventors and problem solvers.’

Karen Livingstone, Science Museum Group Director of Masterplan and Estate, said:

‘We have a proven track record in delivering excellence in architecture and design across the Science Museum Group that has had a significant impact on the way our visitors engage with our collections and transforms their experience of visiting our museums.
‘The brief reflects the level of our ambition and this commission is an extraordinary opportunity to create an exemplary and sustainable building, bringing coherence to an important historic site.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, said:

‘The National Railway Museum has a world-class collection and is at the heart of one of the UK’s most historic cities, considered by many to be the birthplace of rail technology.
‘This is a project which promises to transform the museum’s physical identity and re-launch it for the next 50 years. It is an opportunity to create an outstanding piece of architecture that speaks to the adjoining galleries and the wider regeneration of York Central.’

The National Railway Museum is ranked amongst the most popular attractions in the UK and welcomed 782,000 visitors in 2018-19. Located at the centre of York, the museum sits within a larger industrial site that was originally developed in the mid- to late-19th century by the North Eastern Railway Company. Surrounded by the remnants of this industry, the museum is today dominated by railway heritage and infrastructure.

However, York Central — a vast 45-hectare redevelopment comprising of a series of new city centre residential and business neighbourhoods — will transform the surrounding disused railway estate. This wider development has already achieved outline planning consent, including an envelope for the new Central Hall.

Competition details

The National Railway Museum Central Hall Design Competition is being run in accordance with EU procurement guidelines and the UK Public Contracts Regulations 2015. Details of the competition jury will be announced later in the process.

Stage one criteria include company information, details of the proposed team, and relevant experience.

At least five shortlisted teams will move on to stage two, where they will be asked to produce design concepts for the Central Hall.

They will also be able to propose enhancements to some of the fabric, infrastructure and organisation of the existing adjoining buildings. Depending on the post-competition concept design (RIBA Work Stage 2), a proportion of these works may be delivered by the appointed team for this project.

Internationally-based competitors may be required to propose a UK-based executive architect as part of their team at stage two.

As part of a wide-ranging public engagement process, the National Railway Museum will hold an exhibition of the schemes submitted by finalist teams in York in February 2020.

An honorarium of £30,000 will be awarded to each shortlisted team that submits a compliant tender. A technical panel will review the entries and produce a report for the jury, who will conduct interviews and select a winner.

The winner is expected to be announced in March 2020.