14 September, 2018 - onwards
Review by Paul Black
The V&A Dundee is Scotland’s impressive new design museum, illuminated by refracting light from the Firth of Tay, it is situated at the centre of what was once Dundee’s maritime infrastructure and recently opened to the world’s press as they were given the opportunity to explore the city’s new £80m centrepiece.
The building has been designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and has the appearance of two inverted pyramids, one of which partially overhangs the river Tay. Kuma’s design is said to be inspired by the cliffs on Scotland’s north-eastern coastline, yet the building’s cladding is reminiscent of Dundee’s shipbuilding history. In fact, the new V&A echoes the RRS Discovery, a vessel which was built in Dundee and sailed to Antarctica, captained by Scott and Shackleton, which resides close by at its moorings.
“The uniqueness of this project for us is in the position between the water and the city – it is very different from a normal site as it sits in between land and water. As we started thinking about the project one of my colleagues showed me a picture of the cliffs of north-eastern Scotland – it’s as if the earth and water had a long conversation and finally created this stunning shape. The design of V&A Dundee attempts to translate this geographical uniqueness into the building by creating an artificial cliff” - Kengo Kuma.
The architect’s two ‘artificial cliffs’ form an open triangular archway through the centre of the museum, reconnecting the industrial landscape and the power of nature; the rapid waters of the Tay. This arch-form highlights the relationship between the city and the river; the building acts as a gate through which Dundee and its inhabitants have access to the world and the world has access to the city - a transaction with the world. It also references the commemorative Royal Arch built nearby to welcome Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the city in 1844; the bridge between land and ocean, for a city built on trade.
The interior of the building is lined with hanging oak-veneered panels, similar to the organic boards of a ship, interspersed with windows that look out onto the Tay. They mirror the external cladding of pre-cast concrete, which runs horizontally around the curving concrete walls of the building.
In fact it is possible for visitors to sit in the ‘prow’ of the building which overhangs the Firth of Tay looking out onto the light-dappled water, pointing to Dundee’s connection to the world and its history of trade. In fact, one could almost imagine Kuma’s ship launching into the Firth to trade its cultural and design wares with an eager world.
“I hope the museum can change the city and become its centre of gravity. I am delighted and proud that this is my first building in the UK. The big idea for the V&A Dundee was bringing together nature and architecture, and to create a new living room for the city.”