London-based architecture practice Feilden Fowles has won an international design competition to create the new Central Hall for the National Railway Museum in York, England. Slated for completion in time for the museum’s 50th anniversary in 2025, the new centerpiece building will vastly improve the visitor experience while introducing an ambitious energy strategy to dramatically cut the site-wide operational carbon footprint by 80%. Following the firm’s low-tech philosophy, the design will minimize reliance on concrete and steel in favor of prefabricated timber materials while emphasizing passive design strategies. 

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the exterior of a round, golden-colored building

In winning the two-phase design competition organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants, Feilden Fowles beat 75 other design firms with their Central Hall proposal that pays homage to the site’s former uses. The building’s central two-story rotunda is directly inspired by the history of locomotive roundhouses and railway turntables. Recycled patinated copper will clad the structure, the interior of which will feel warm and inviting thanks to a predominately timber palette and the abundance of natural light that flows through high clerestory glazing and a skylight fitted in the center of its beautifully engineered roof structure.

interior of a round building with a skylight and people walking inside

The new welcome and orientation space will host a wide variety of programming, including gallery spaces for the museum’s world-class collection, recreational areas, retail and public-facing community spaces. The Central Hall also connects to the five museum portals: the main entrance, Great Hall, Wonderlab, Exhibition Hall, the shop and a new cafe. 

Related: Kengo Kuma unveils bold timber museum in Turkey that pays homage to the region’s Ottoman heritage

a hallway with a white circular fixture in the middle and people walking around

Sustainability is a major driving factor behind the Central Hall, a timber-framed building that will be built with traditional, locally sourced materials wherever possible. In addition to the creation of a new energy center with air-source or ground-source heat pumps powered by solar energy, the building follows passive solar principles to enhance thermal comfort and reduce reliance on mechanical systems. Larger spanning and prefabrication of timber elements will also be used to ensure higher quality control and to reduce construction waste. 

+ Feilden Fowles

Images by Feilden Fowles