National Centre for Popular Music

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Hallam Union Building of Sheffield
MeetMarket Somewhere over the rainbow...jpg
The National Centre for Popular Music
Former names National Centre for Popular Music
Alternative names The HUBs
General information
Type Museum
Architectural style Avant-garde
Location Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Address Paternoster Row
Coordinates Coordinates: 53°22′39″N 1°27′58″W / 53.377466°N 1.466036°W / 53.377466; -1.466036
Current tenants Sheffield Hallam University Students' Union
Completed February 1999
Inaugurated March 1, 1999
Cost £15 million (Lottery funded by £11m)
Owner Sheffield Hallam University
Technical details
Structural system Stainless steel drums
Design and construction
Architect Nigel Coates
Architecture firm Branson Coates

The National Centre for Popular Music was a museum in Sheffield, England, for contemporary music and culture, a £15 million project largely funded with contributions from the National Lottery, which opened on 1 March 1999, and closed in June 2000.

Building design[edit]

The building, designed by Nigel Coates Architects following an architectural design competition managed by RIBA Competitions, consists of four giant stainless steel drums, surrounding an atrium area, the upper floor of which has a glazed roof. The drums, whose tops were built to rotate in to the wind, no longer rotate and have been left pointing in various directions.

Unusual features[edit]

The unusual building has acquired a number of local nicknames including the curling stones, drums and kettles. The Museum featured a 3D surround sound auditorium in one of the drums (called Soundscapes) created by Sheffield-based musician and producer Martyn Ware, who later used the same technology as the basis for his touring project "The Future of Sound". Two other drums were called Perspectives (music for different purposes) and Making Music (hands on). The final drum was used to show music around the world, but was supposed to accommodate changing exhibitions - this never happened as the museum closed. The interactive exhibitions were developed with the Philips electronics firm.


The ground floor contained office space, a shop, a bar, a cafe and a further exhibition space. Access to this floor was free, with only the top floor forming the museum.

Additional images
View of two of the four stainless steel drums from across an empty road. The main entrance is visible between the two drums with a circular sign above containing the words "the HUBS".
The front of the building from Paternoster Row. 
The upper half of the drums featuring the formerly rotatable tops. A deep blue sky featuring wispy clouds is seen above.
The roof of the HUBS. 
The very top of one of the drums can be seen in the bottom of the frame, with the rotatable top taking up most of the picture. The top consists of an almost rectangular opening, which protrudes back and down into the top of the drum. Weathering can be easily seen to have degraded the drum and top.
Detail of one of the tops. 

Commercial failure[edit]

High estimates of visitors[edit]

However, the Centre failed to attract enough visitors and cash flow to ensure its viability for its 79 workers — BBC News described the centre as having been "shunned" by visitors, and, despite a £2 million relaunch, the Centre closed for good in 2000. Ticket prices were about £21 for a family of four. It was hoped to have attracted 400,000 visitors a year. After seven months, 104,000 visitors turned up - mostly out of initial curiosity. At this point on October 18, 1999, the building's owners Music Heritage Ltd, called in PricewaterhouseCoopers to administer the day-to-day running. The company was to be liquidated in that November if administration was not successful. It was saved in the interim although it was owing £1.1m to 200 creditors. The estimates for visitors per year was reduced to 150,000. Martin King, the chief executive who took over from Stuart Rogers, then resigned in January 2000.

Subsequent use of building[edit]

It became a live music venue for a period from July 2001 and then being taken over by Sheffield Hallam University from September 2003, who bought it from Yorkshire Forward for £1.85m in February 2003. It is now the university's Students' Union.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

News items[edit]