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10.19.2010
Victoria & Albert Museum's Scottish Satellite
Six teams compete to build new V&A branch
Proposals for the new V&A expansion by Steven Holl Architects (above top) and Delugan Meissl Associated Architects (above)
Courtesy Respective Firms

Dundee, Scotland is aiming to build a satellite of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum as part of a larger redevelopment strategy. The sponsors are holding an international competition, with two New York–based firms, REX and Steven Holl Architects, among the six finalists. The V&A Dundee is a joint project of the University of Dundee with Abertay University, the city of Dundee, the Scottish Government, and Scotland Enterprise, an economic development agency. It will host touring exhibitions while serving as an incubator for contemporary design practices in Scotland.

Under the current agreement, the London V&A will supply the Dundee facility with exhibitions for 20 years. Located in Craig Harbor on the banks of the River Tay, the new museum will be the centerpiece of Dundee’s waterfront revitalization strategy. “The Dundee City Council and Scottish Enterprise are investing millions of pounds in the revitalization of the waterfront,” said Jill Farrell, a regional director for Scottish Enterprise. “Having the V&A there will take the redevelopment to an entirely new level.” Farrell believes the project will also help change perceptions of postindustrial Dundee.

Proposals for the new V&A expansion by REX and Kengo Kuma.Proposals for the new V&A expansion by REX (above top) and Kengo Kuma & Associates (above).

The other competing teams are Delugan Meissl Associated Architects of Vienna; Kengo Kuma & Associates of Tokyo; Snøhetta of Oslo and New York; and Sutherland Hussey Architects of Edinburgh, Scotland. “We’re very impressed with the caliber of all the designs. It will be a catalytic project,” she said.

REX’s project consists of an inverted five-point pyramid covered in reflective glass. The galleries are set on the skylit top floor, and a Scottish Design incubator is placed below on the third level. Civic space is on the second, and the ground floor handles circulation for staff, visitors, and handling art. The inverted form provides solar shading, and the reflective glass creates a dynamic, animated facade with glinting reflections from the water.

Proposals for the new V&A expansion by Sutherland Hussey and Snøhetta.Proposals for the new V&A expansion by Sutherland Hussey Architects (above top) and Snøhetta (above).

Steven Holl Architects designed a vertical museum clad in a curtain wall that is wrapped in a stainless-steel mesh screen. The mesh is pulled taught over the building with tensioned cables, requiring very little structure. Holl describes the mesh as acting like a veil. “It creates a mystery as to the exact profile of the building,” he said. Behind the mesh, the galleries will be glazed in sandblasted glass. Two large windows of clear glass will offer views out to the river and the city. “Light is one of my most important materials,” Holl told AN. “If we win this competition, we’ll be using it in a way we’ve never used it before. I wouldn’t build this building anywhere else. I don’t like to repeat myself.”

Delugan Meissl’s plan, one of the most formally ambitious, resembles a somewhat flattened version of OMA’s opera house in Porto, Portugual, while Kengo Kuma calls for a horizontal, boat-like building. Snøhetta’s plan also calls for a shimmering, low-slung structure accessible by a broad bridge and plaza. Sutherland Hussey’s proposal is the most restrained, a box wrapped in channel glass that sits on a large plaza on stilts.

The six proposals are currently on view in an exhibition at the University of Dundee. A winner for the project, which has a strict budget of 45 million pounds, will be announced by the end of the year.

Alan G. Brake