Delays and inflation contribute to 30% price hike, museum confirms

Programme delays and inflation have driven the cost of building the Museum of London’s new home at Smithfield Market up by £100m, the museum has confirmed.

The original £337m budget for the relocation of the museum from its former base at the Barbican has now increased to £437m, a rise of 30%.

Last week, Building reported that the scheme, which is being built by Sir Robert McAlpine under a construction management deal, had been split into two phases because of spiralling costs.

The half of the museum which will be housed inside Smithfield’s Poultry Market is now not set to complete until as late as 2028, up to two years behind schedule. One source close to the project said total costs for the project had ballooned to as much as £500m.

Museum of London 2

The Museum of London construction site at Smithfield Market last month. Enabling works are being carried out by Keltbray.

In response, a spokesperson for the museum said: “We acknowledge that there will be additional costs to the project due to programme delays, inflation, and other factors that we have previously indicated. 

“However, we would like to clarify that the original budget of £337m set in 2019 has increased to £437m, not £500m.”

Designed by Stanton Williams, Asif Khan and Julian Harrap, it will be one of London’s largest museums when completed. 

The project team also includes cost consultant Gardiner & Theobald, enabling works contractor Keltbray, project manager Buro Four, planning consultants Gerald Eve and Donald Insall Associates, structural engineer AKT II and services engineer Arup.

The scheme is being largely funded by the City of London Corporation with the mayor of London and the museum both providing £70m.

Sharon Ament, the museum’s director, told Building last week that further fundraising efforts were now being carried out, mainly from private investors and philanthropists.

Originally given a price tag of £150m, the scheme had more than doubled in price by the end of an architectural competition held in 2016. 

It went up by a further £5m in 2020 due to “construction inflation”, the museum said, although this came before the runaway price hikes for construction materials in 2021 and 2022 caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The half of the museum located with Smithfield’s 19th century General Market building, where most of the historic collections will be exhibited, is still due to open on schedule in 2026.

The delayed section in the 1960s Poultry Market will mostly focus on more contemporary themes including “imagined time” and “deep time”.

More than 100m of previously unknown tunnels were discovered during enabling works after site workers broke through a sealed up wall. Inside was found a pair of wooden carts, some shelves and a single oyster shell.