The museum will occupy the historic market buildings, energising the area and creating exemplary galleries and support spaces to show and interpret a diverse and growing collection, speaking to new and established audiences.

The brief will incorporate the project objectives.

The emerging brief for the project is framed by the site’s long and complex planning history, with passionate debate over its future reuse and regeneration continuing to the present day. The successful architect will need an approach which sensitively balances this history with the requirements of the brief.

The site of circa 25,000m2 is made up of a number of separate buildings. One of the challenges is to tie these buildings together, optimising the opportunities for flexible contemporary space whilst being conscious of the much-loved heritage value and context of the former market.

The brief will address the following functional areas:

Administration and Back-of-House: efficient and flexible support space for staff, volunteers and visitors, including safe and secure delivery.

Centre for Research: collections and laboratory space, ideally contiguous with collections storage and conservation, with extensive public interpretation and access, to offer a unique insight into the museum’s extensive collection of archaeological remains.

Collections Storage: a highly efficient, secure and safe collections facility offering public access to the collections through the Centre for Research.

Commercial: retail, catering and other functions to help the museum become more financially sustainable.

Front-of-House: to create an appealing entrance, which is welcoming and conveys the sense that the museum is open to all; a ‘taster’ for the treasures within the museum as well as dealing with all of the functions around entry, reception and ticketing.

Galleries: organised and designed to promote an architectural promenade that plays off the unique space of the market buildings. The museum should include flexible, contemporary and well-proportioned exhibition and interpretation spaces.

Public Realm: to link the separate buildings, energise and interpret the surrounding streets to serve 2.25 million visitors a year, and embrace the opportunities offered by Crossrail and new commercial developments.

Theatre and Public Engagement Spaces: adaptable and easy to use learning and presentation spaces, including a theatre seating 240 plus accompanying break out spaces and supporting facilities.

The construction budget will be in the range of £130 million to £150 million. The first stage of the competition, which sought Expressions of Interest from architects who can deliver a challenging and sensitive project to deadline and within cost constraints, has now concluded.