Elizabeth Diller unveils design concept for London’s Centre for Music

Design visualization of the London Centre for Music entry plaza. We see a staircase leading to different levels that are an open concept. The image is filled with people walking around, or sitting at the cafeteria to the left.
Visualization of the London Centre for Music entry plaza. Huge, bright space, with a cafeteria to the left. To the center, we see a staircase that leads to the upper levels. The space is filled with people.
(Image credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

Elizabeth Diller has unveiled the design concept for the new Centre for Music in London. The centre will bring the activities of the London Symphony Orchestra, the Guildhall School and the Barbican together into a welcoming, future-focussed facility that will contribute to the cultural offering of the City of London’s Square Mile.

Located at the southern tip of the Barbican site, the building’s design will harness the existing high wall walks of the brutalist estate. These tributaries are ‘extended metaphorically up the building,’ says Diller, architect and partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Pathways from the street flow through the Centre for Music to the summit of the building. The foyer is multi-levelled and always in contact with the city beyond through glazing, while also revealing views into the first floor main concert hall at the core. Sunken seating spaces for informal education or pre-concert talks are layered into the foyer design – welcoming all, with or without a ticket, says Diller.

The main concert hall in the London Centre. Circular room, that has multiple levels where the seating places are set. The orchestra is at the center.

The main concert hall. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

(Image credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

The main concert hall, seating 2,000 people with acoustics modelled by Nagata Acoustics, was designed with geological formations in mind. It is irregularly contoured, with steeply layered strata of seating surrounding the stage, so each member of the audience is always connected to the conductor.

A second smaller concert hall, the ‘Coda’ is positioned at the top of the building above a layer of commercial space including a ‘destination restaurant’. This concert hall, designated for more experimental performances, has a window stretched across two facades, with views to St Paul’s.

Raised up off the ground to open up public realm beneath the building, the architecture’s layered effect was designed as a ‘tapestry of experiences’ says Diller, to capture ‘the theatre of the theatre’.

Learning is a key part of the design. Education pods, on conductor Sir Simon Rattle’s wishlist for the Centre for Music, will offer a new way for students to experience live music and learn from the process behind performance. There are two large studio workspaces and a new Institute for Social Impact, that will contribute research to the global discourse on the importance of music today.

A smaller concert hall in the London Centre. With multiple levels of seating with chairs and tables, it looks like a cafe. People are sitting at the tables, having drinks, and watching people perform next to a panoramic window that looks out to the city.

The Coda, a smaller more intimate concert hall at the summit of the building. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

(Image credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

Visualization of one of the studio spaces in the London Centre. Next to a panoramic wall-window people are performing, while on the other side the crowd is watching them perform.

One of the studio spaces, designed in correspondence to the focus of the Centre for Music on education. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

(Image credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

Visualization of the main concert hall in the London Centre in the back. In the front, the ’education pod' is shown, with a woman pointing to a screen with information and children sitting in front of it with tablets in their hands.

Concert Hall ’education pod’, allowing students to experience all aspects of live music within a dedicated learning environment. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

(Image credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

The main concert hall in the London Centre. It's made out of multiple levels with people filling all of the seats. In the center, a woman is playing piano, the spotlight is on her, while the rest of the hall is dark.

The layered concert hall will feature projection technology and has two upper windows for views and natural light. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

(Image credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

The exterior view of the London Centre for Music. A modern-looking building that's shaped like a triangle. We see the interior through the walls being all glass.

Exterior view of the London Centre for Music. Courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro

(Image credit: Diller Scofidio + Renfro)


For more information, see the Diller Scofidio + Renfro website

Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.