THE eyes of the world were on Dundee at the opening of the first V&A Museum of Design outside of London.
The museum is the centrepiece of Dundee’s £1 billion waterfront regeneration programme and media from across the globe converged on the city in their hundreds to get a sneak peak of what architect Kengo Kuma has heralded as a “new living room for the city”.
Taking inspiration from the cliff faces of Scotland’s north east, the £80.11 million structure, delivered by Bam Construct UK, consists of nearly 2,500 pieces of precast concrete.
Kengo Kuma has spoken of wanting to create a new merging of nature and the built environment and, upon entering the space, it is clear his vision has been realised. Just as impressive as the monolithic exterior, is the vast, bright and open interior. Large curved windows look out over the River Tay, with the exterior’s slated concrete mirrored by wooden panelling inside. A glass staircase that runs the length of one corner of the building gives way to a mezzanine floor and then the upper floor, where the museum’s exhibition spaces are.
“This museum is about helping to understand why design is important to all our lives,” Phillip Long, director of V&A Dundee said in his opening address. “We all make decisions about design every day. I think the challenge to that is that design is so prevalent that it becomes imprisoned, but we know that great design helps solve problems, creates innovation, it supports entrepreneurship, it provides opportunities to create and learn.
“Now with V&A Dundee complete, we can put this new institution to work to build on a mission that the V&A has championed since the 19th century.”
He went on to say the new museum is a “very special thing” – the first dedicated museum of design in Scotland and the first V&A in the world outside London. He then extended his congratulations to Kengo Kuma on the “remarkable building”, calling it a “superlative” achievement.
In his speech, Kengo Kuma said the aim of the design was to create a gate that would open up the city to nature in a new way. “Now, people want to live with nature, they want to feel nature and that gate can bring people to nature, and it’s very good for the city and very good for nature as well.”
Kuma also emphasised the importance of creating a “warmth” to the interior. “A museum for the 21st century needs a warm feeling; it should be a living room for the city; a living room for the community. This museum is not only for art lovers, not only for artworks – this should be a part of the community and it can change the life of the city.”
At the heart of the museum is the restored Oak Room by Charles Rennie Macintosh, whom Kuma called one of his heroes, and the Oak Room is “the best example of his work”.
An extended piece on the opening of the Dundee V&A will feature in the October issue of Project Scotland.