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Tate Modern of classical music building canceled

Corporation says impact of Covid pandemic has made $400m Centre for Music project unfeasible

An artist’s impression of what was to have been the Centre for Music in central London
An artist’s impression of what was to have been the Centre for Music in central London | Image @ Diller Scofidio + Renfro

City of London scrapped the ambitious $400m concert hall that was supposed to be “the Tate Modern of classical music” and said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic made the plan impossible to complete.

The 2,000-seat concert hall for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) would have had restaurants, commercial space and a smaller venue for jazz performances.

"“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”."

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