In 2011, the Victoria &Albert Museum in London hosted an international design competition for their Exhibition Road Expansion Project. MMA was selected as one of seven finalists to prepare schemes for consideration. The competition brief clearly established the primary project objectives: to build an accessible and inviting new gallery for temporary exhibitions under the Boilerhouse Yard; to open an inviting performative public courtyard; and to create a new Museum entry along the cultural spine of Exhibition Road. The MMA competition design addresses these primary goals by engaging the unique qualities of both the V&A Museum and the context of the project site, both above and below ground, to create a new courtyard hub for the Museum’s reimagined Exhibition Road entry. The project aimed to capture the energy of the V&A, the diversity of its exhibitions, and the sophistication of its curatorial approach.
Working in concert with its historic buildings and in reference to its collection, the new courtyard along Exhibition Road is an urban space activated by movement, scale, and purpose. Acting not only as a rooftop to the gallery below, the surface of the courtyard is an exterior room within the London cityscape. The courtyard above can incorporate performances, installations, and other public functions by utilizing flexible infrastructure and lighting to support a wide range of use.
A CONNECTION TO HISTORY
The new entrance lobby is a welcoming space connecting the courtyard, the Museum and the Sackler Centre for arts education in a single hub. Moving down the ramp or a few gentle steps, visitors enter the lobby under the apex of the courtyard’s undulating form, through a glass wall that can slide open in nice weather, and immediately find an information desk, a place to purchase tickets, a cloakroom, and the café. Above, below, and through the entry level, the lobby volume is also a compact and efficient hub for the gallery and its support spaces all served directly by the service core. The new architecture of the lobby responds to historic landmarks of the existing museum such as the Sgraffito Wall of the Henry Cole Wing and the Ceramic Stair. From the lobby, visitors enter the Museum in a dramatic way, through a tall atrium created within the Western Range.
Crossing through the space of the atrium, one can immediately look down into the exhibition shop and glimpse further into the exhibition gallery below. The 1,470 square meter exhibition gallery is designed as a flexible space suited to multiple exhibit configurations as required by the curatorial needs of the V&A. The gallery is designed so as not to evoke the feeling of an underground space, and in the spirit of the V&A, is provided with the possibility of vertical visual connectivity through the exhibition shop and up into the atrium of the Western Range.
LOCATION / London, England
TYPE / International museum competition
SIZE / 16,000 sf gallery and public courtyard
STATUS / Design Completed 2011
ROLE / Design Architect