The National Centre of Popular Music

Subject: Culture
Pages: 6
Words: 1428
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College


The National Centre for Popular Music was opened in March 1999 as a museum in Sheffield, England. It was to be a museum for contemporary music and culture. The center had cost the National Lottery about 15 million pounds. The building was designed by Branson Coates Architects. This firm had the initial design of four giant stainless steel drums that were surrounded by an atrium area. The National Centre for Popular Music was a cultural building to celebrate the Millennium where different cultures were displayed for the locals and international tourists.

The Museum features

The building had some unusual features that made it unique. This included a rotating drum top as the wind blew. The design was exceptional where the interior had a 3D sound auditorium. The soundscape was designed by a musician and producer known as Martyn Ware. The building had a ground floor, which had housed office space, a bar, a shop, a café and an exhibition space (Hatherley, 2011). The management of the building had offered free access to the ground floor while access to the rest of the floor had an entrance fee of 21 pounds for a family of four. The rest of the floor formed the museum space that was accessible after a certain payment (Hager, 2005). The museum was later closed in 2000 after a poor and low income from visitors. Thus, its viability was not enough to sustain its operation and pay the wages for the number of workers employed in the building. The building had an initial plan of charging 21 pounds for a family of four. This was considered a low fee, and thus with a large clientele, the museum could break through and attract about 400,000 visitors in a given year. The museum could not meet such guidelines and had to be closed. Notably, the museum had attracted slightly over 100,000 visitors in its first seven months of operation (Shepherd, 2003). The BBC News described this as a failure to launch its operation effectively. Therefore, most of the visitors shunned the museum, and this led to a low visitor turnout. The business plan was fatally flawed, and the building was eventually taken over by Sheffield Hallam University. The university reopened the building as a Student Union. The museum ceased to be in operation, and the subsequent relaunch of a 2 million pound project was also flawed. Thus, the university took over the building and leading to the final closure (Smith, 2006).

The implications for architects, clients, and public buildings

The National Centre for Popular Music was a museum project funded by the National Lottery for a total cost of 15 million pounds. It opened its doors on 1st March 1999 in Sheffield, England (Hatherley, 2011). It was initially meant to serve as a museum for contemporary music and culture. The Branson Coates Architects won the tender to design the building. The building had to have unique features that would serve the purpose of a modern music auditorium where families would come and enjoy different performances and plays that depicted a diverse ancient and modern culture (Adams Media Inc, 2009).

The National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield consisted of four huge stainless steel drums, which besieged an atrium area and an upper floor with a glazed roof. The tops of the drums were built to rotate following the wind direction. The unique building had many nicknames. Some local people called it the drum. Others referred to it as a curling stone or a kettle. In addition, it was referred to as a museum after things changed leading to its closure. The first drum was called soundscape. It was created by Martin Ware, a musician and producer from Sheffield. It was used as a touring project. The other two drums were called Perspectives. They were used in making music for different purposes. The last one was supposed to be used in showing music to people all over the world. The initial plan of the museum was a viable project that was meant to draw considerable visitors to the building all year round (Brabazon & Mallinder, 2006). This was meant to make enough money to sustain its management and pay the wages for its 79 workers. The building had this layout plan for it to serve its main purpose. The building was also to offer different satisfaction to the more than 400,000 anticipated visitors all year round. There was a shop, a bar, a cafe, and an office and exhibition space on the ground floor. The museum was on the top floor. Accommodating and changing exhibitions in the last drum was never fulfilled. This was due to the untimely closure of the National Centre for Popular Music in 2000 (Gibson & Connell, 2005).

Problems associated with the project

The building was designed to offer different satisfaction to family members in terms of music and culture. It had been expected to attract about 400,000 visitors every year so as to break even the cost and income. However, it failed to achieve this objective and suffered a major blow in its first year of operation. In its first seven months of operation, only 104,000 visitors showed up. Thus, the cost of maintaining its operation was a problem. This led to its initial closure in 2000 and subsequent sale to Sheffield Hallam University. The museum could not meet its financial needs as each start-up business needs proper planning and management of its resources (Hatherley, 2011). This was due to poor planning and the high cost of construction. The management failed to offer satisfaction to the visitors as few showed up only due to curiosity (Andersson, 2012).

The other problem was a problem of design. For example, when designing the central stair, it was not sufficiently wide to fit everything in the display. Visitors too were not able to view and make artists of their choice who were to perform. For example, there are instances when visitors were forced to put their ears in a hole to guess the name of the singer by listening to their voices. There are many other reasons that led to the closure of the National Centre for Popular Music (Jones, 1996). This included a lack of public support from both local and international bodies. A museum is supposed to attract both local and international tourists who visit to enjoy the different cultures of music and art on display. The government should have initiated a campaign to market the newly opened museum. This will ensure the creation of a local and international awareness of the Centre, which would serve as a rich cultural center for music and arts in Sheffield City (Bell, 2004).

Another problem that the project faced was the infrastructure. There was the inability to construct facilities that could back up the popular music’s function in society and a lack of long-term strategies. These aspects were instrumental in the Centre’s failure (Kam, 2004). The closure of the Centre could have been avoided. However, this could be possible if the government had intervened by enacting and implementing long-term strategic policies immediately after the estimated number of visitors failed to attend. The Centre administration lacked innovation on how to attract different kinds of visitors who would visit to enjoy the rich culture on display (Banham, 2000).


The National Centre for Popular Music had been started as a museum in Sheffield City for contemporary music and culture in March 1999. This was done at an estimated cost of 15 million pounds. The National Centre for Popular Music was unable to operate effectively. This led to its closure in 2000 and was later taken over by Sheffield Hallam University in 2003 at a cost of 1.85 million pounds. The Centre later served as the student union for the university. The center is referred to as a museum that indicated that it had failed to perform, or was unable to meet its set goals. The goals included being a multi-functional Centre with academic institutions and broad contextual cultural music for local and national consumption. The failure of the Centre was mostly attributed to lack of planning by the management and high, running costs. The initial design failed to attract many visitors. Thus, the Centre suffered losses and could not cater for its maintenance and operations. The design should have incorporated modern facilities that could attract a diverse number of visitors. The Centre could not serve its true purpose, and this led to its closure as a museum in 2000. This was after a failed attempt to revive the Center.


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