Victoria and Albert Museum Exhibition Road Quarter
Client Victoria and Albert Museum
Awards RIBA London Award 2018 and RIBA London Building of the Year 2018 - Sponsored by Artifice Press
Every once in a while an architect, a site and a client work seamlessly together to create a special moment in the city. The new courtyard, cafe, shop and gallery of the Exhibition Road Quarter is such a place in time.
Approached along exhibition road, significant alteration to a grade one listed screen has opened up the new V&A entrance to the Albertopolis vision of a close relationship with the Science and Natural History Museums.
Crafted aluminium gates drilled with reference to previous damage to the screen and the royal association to the institution behind, open up to a new threshold space in the city which is delight of movement, light and culture.
This extremely sensitive and constrained site is manipulated carved and folded to overcome significant difficulties with regards topography, entry and the scale of new gallery space to be provided and serviced.
Surfaces roll, kink and step to create a comfortable and welcoming entrance sequence. Enveloped by the beauty of the existing buildings and screen the exquisitely detailed ceramic tiling reflects brightly in the sun and captures crisp shadows in south and western sunlight of the ornate cornicing and columns that surround the space.
This free flowing architecture is at peace with the intricacies of the plan and sectional challenges of this site and its fluid form sits in comfortable contrast to the verticality and formality of the buildings that hold its edges.
A singular decision to remove rooms internally to allow views through to the inner courtyard, places the new entrance in an enviable position between a classical courtyard and a contemporary one.
From here a staircase cut into the floor dives and curves into the bowels of the construction past an enjoyably expressive community of columns supporting the heavy masonry above.
On arrival to the lower ground floor the soffit of the new gallery itself is suggestive of the playful court above and in its creases allows natural light as required.
The structural expression is folded into the movement of the stair and court above creating a continuous journey through an aesthetic that makes a whole of the multiple issues arising from building under, within and very close to the existing listed buildings. The whole composition flows effortlessly.
Servicing is from a narrow gap in the city block to the north and the sub basement is carefully arranged around security and process requirements. A joy to the managers and curators of the space.
Exit is via the shop, as one would expect but this space is more than just retail, it opens up connections to adjacent galleries and affords views into the beautiful circulation of the existing V&A buildings.
A glazed panel is cut at an acute angle delicately into the stonework of the existing buildings. An example of the incredible attention to detail upon which this kind of intervention depends.
Materials are kept to a minimum but are handled with aplomb. Ceramics to the court and cafe roof and timber flooring and a carefully chosen grey to the galleries. The deep black dynamic stair in varying gloss and matt finishes for ergonomic and cleaning purposes is a real joy.
The difficulties both in spatial and conservation terms for this project may well have seemed unassailable. The choice of architect and associated project have proven to be a wonderful decision.
The project is a clear example of how a contemporary architecture can not only enhance the city through material, space and contrast, but can also be a fluid, expressively elegant response to problem solving in the most difficult of situations.
Internal Area 4,501 m²
Structural Engineers Arup
Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant Aecom and Davis Langdon Plymouth
Project Management Lendlease
Historic Building Advisor Giles Quarme & Associates
Planning Consultant DP9
Environmental / M&E Engineers Arup
Lighting Design DHA Designs
Acoustic Engineers Arup
Access Consultant Arup