Institutional Development

The V&A’s, London, Exhibition Road Quarter is now open. This new space provides a courtyard as well as a large gallery intended to house the Museum’s temporary exhibitions along with an entranceway through the Blavatnik Hall. The project, designed by Amanda Levete (AL_A), has been six years in the making and represents the biggest physical change to the institution in over a century.

Each space is innovative, but can still be placed clearly within the ongoing tradition of a longstanding commitment to providing the public with access to internationally important works of art and design. The porcelain-tiled Sackler Courtyard, for example, is the first of its kind in the world. Every one of its 11,000 individual components is handmade, referencing the depth of the ceramic collections visitors can see once inside.

Linking the museum with the outside world, the 19th century Aston Webb Screen has been carefully removed and renovated – each stone was catalogued by AL_A in the process. The modified version allows the spaces behind to be visible from the street, rather than shielding it from view as it arguably did previously. Although there has been some heavily critical debate around this procedure, with Ian Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society, going as far as describing it as an act of butchery, the new openness of the colonnades certainly reflects a welcoming spirit of inclusivity. It also provides visual reference to the layers of history present in any building of this age: damage done during World War Two is ably preserved.

This development forms part of a very exciting period for the 165-year-old organisation. Later this year they open a gallery, under the auspices of the Design Society, in Shekou, China. A purpose-built establishment in Dundee, Scotland, currently under construction, follows in 2018.

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1. V&A, designed by AL_A ©Hufton+Crow.