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V&A Dundee

V&A Dundee
(c) Hufton+Crow, 2018

V&A Dundee

A striking building which replaced the Olympia Leisure Centre on Dundee's waterfront, the V&A Dundee is an outstation of the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington in London, the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design. It represents Scotland's first design museum and comprises two principal spaces extending to 8500 sq. m / 91,493 sq. feet that contain a main hall, the Scottish Design Galleries, temporary exhibition galleries, which are the largest of any museum in Scotland, a learning centre, and an auditorium. The spaces merge on the upper floor, which includes a restaurant and an outdoor terrace, with views over the Firth of Tay.

The Scottish Design Galleries feature more than 300 items brought north from the V&A in London as well as others borrowed from collections across Scotland, extending from architecture to engineering, clothing, jewellery, technology and computer-gaming. The centrepiece is the Oak Room, which is the conserved and painstakingly reconstructed interior of a Glasgow tearoom by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 - 1928), that had not been seen for 50 years. The 13.7-m / 45-foot long panelled room was originally designed for Miss Cranston's Ingram Street Tearoom in 1907. It was saved when the building was demolished in 1971 and put into storage by Glasgow City Council. Other exhibits include fine Ayrshire needlework; a robe from the film Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones (2002), the work of Scottish costume designer Trisha Biggar; a 1920s swimsuit designed by Alexander MacRae (1889 - 1938), a Scot who emigrated to Australia and founded the Speedo sportswear company; and a full-size clay model of Jaguar's electric I-PACE car, created by another Scotsman Ian Callum (b.1954).

Opened on 15th September 2018, V&A Dundee externally takes the form of gravity-defying angular blocks, looking much like of sections of a partially constructed ship, recalling Dundee's shipbuilding heritage, with its prow hanging over the River Tay imitating the RRS Discovery, which lies next to the museum. It is the first British building by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and draws inspiration from the landscape including the cliffs of NE Scotland. The distinctive slatted cladding comprises 2466 pre-cast reconstituted stone panels that run horizontally around the curving concrete walls, with each panel weighing up to 3000 kg and with a span of up to 4m (13 feet). The contractor was BAM Construction Scotland and the project cost £80.1 million, funded by the Scottish and UK Governments, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Creative Scotland, Dundee City Council and the Dundee Waterfront Project, with £15 million raised from private donations. The building benefits from a geothermal heating system, with boreholes descending 200m / 656 feet into the earth.

Already having a connection between the V&A in London through the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (part of the University of Dundee), Dundee City Council lobbied for the museum to come to the city, wanting it to become the focal point of their waterfront redevelopment. The museum is expected to host 500,000 visitors in its first year and serve as a cultural catalyst for the city, bringing further jobs to its creative industries. The V&A Dundee is also used as a conference venue with the Juniper Auditorium seating 144 and the Upper and Lower Locke Halls, with a combined capacity of 800 people.

Dundee's Central Bath House had opened nearby in 1896 between the former Earl Grey Docks and Tidal Harbour, both later infilled to provide a landing point for the Tay Road Bridge. The Olympia Leisure Centre with its rather utilitarian exterior opened here in 1974 but was demolished to make way the V&A building in 2013.


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