The two-stage competition – organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants on behalf of the Science Museum Group – will select a team to create a 4,500m² structure connecting two existing exhibition spaces at the popular visitor attraction.
The £16.5 million project will improve connectivity and create a new ‘appealing and compelling arrival experience’ between the museum’s Great Hall and Station Hall. Up to five teams will receive a honorarium of £30,000 each to participate in the competition’s second stage.
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: ‘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 commission follows a review of timescales and phasing for the museum’s Vision 2025 regeneration masterplan. It comes a year after the museum abandoned an earlier search for a design team for a major £12 million overhaul of its Great Hall after the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected a funding application.
Last week, the Science Museum Group announced it is recruiting a design team for a £3 million ‘Wonderlab’ gallery at the National Railway Museum. Additional design contracts are expected to be announced over the coming months.
The National Railway Museum opened in 1975 on the former 8.1ha site of the York North Locomotive Depot. It features more than 100 power cars and 200 other items of rolling stock. The museum is the largest of its type in the country and has 750,000 visitors a year.
NRM’s main exhibition space – the Great Hall – was constructed in 1877 as one of nine engine sheds at the York depot housing and preparing steam locomotives for the East Coast Mainline. The enormous structure, which features a giant turntable at its centre, was used to store decommissioned steam trains from 1968 up until its conversion into a museum.
Items on display include Stephenson’s Rocket, the record-breaking Mallard and the only Shinkansen Bullet Train outside Japan. Last year the museum shelved its search for a design team to revamp the 8,300m² Great Hall exhibition space, which has changed little since the museum opened.
The Great Hall scheme was intended as the first phase of a wider regeneration masterplan for the city-centre museum scheduled to finish in 2025 but was put on hold after failing to achieve Heritage Lottery Fund support.
The Central Hall project will create a landmark new entrance space featuring a 1,000m² gallery intended to boost visitor numbers at the attraction to 1.2 million every year.
Five finalists will receive £30,000 to draw up design concepts during the competition’s second phase. Shortlisted proposals will be exhibited in February and an overall winner will be announced in March.
The deadline for applications is 2pm on 16 October.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information