The V&A has unveiled plans that will revolutionize how its world-leading collection of art, design and performance are accessed, explored and experienced. The V&A East project will create two interconnected sites in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – a brand-new museum, and a new collection and research centre – that will open in 2023. V&A East will also host a unique and unprecedented partnership between the V&A and the Smithsonian Institution – the largest museum and research complex in the world.
V&A East will provide a 360-degree view of the V&A, and illuminate the breadth of its work in ways that have not been possible before. Situated within the vibrant creative hub of east London and surrounded by four of the city’s fastest-growing and most diverse boroughs, V&A East will be firmly rooted in its local neighborhood and global in outlook.
At Here East, the new Collection and Research Centre will reinvent the idea of a museum store. With a design led by New York-based practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro (and supported by Austin-Smith:Lord), the Collection and Research Centre will bring treasures out of storage and into public view for the first time in generations.
The centre will be a purpose-built home for 250,000 objects and an additional 917 archives from the V&A’s collection of fashion, textiles, furniture, theater and performance, metalwork, ceramics, glass, sculpture, architecture, paintings and product design.
Visitors will be invited on a behind-the-scenes journey that uncovers and demonstrates how and why objects are collected, how they are cared for, conserved and researched and how they help make sense of our past, present and future as part of exhibitions and public programmes.
A central public collection hall will turn the storage inside out. A rich array of objects will be on display for visitors to explore – from some of the smallest curiosities in the collection to the largest and most significant rooms and building fragments.
Highlights announced today include Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1930s office for Edgar J Kaufmann Jr. – a unique and complete 20th-century plywood interior – and a 15th-century marquetry ceiling from the now destroyed Altamira Palace near Toledo, Spain, which will be resurrected within the centre as a real architectural element above a new public space for displays and events.
Further spaces within the Centre will host pop-up displays, workshops, performances and screenings alongside live encounters with the museum’s work – from conservation and research to exhibition preparation. This new model builds on the continued success of The Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion located at Blythe House in West London where the V&A’s collection is currently stored.
A dedicated viewing gallery will be created to showcase a changing display of rarely-seen large rolled objects from the V&A’s extraordinary collection of theater stage cloths, carpets, textiles, tapestries and paintings, including a 15-meter-wide theatrical backcloth designed by Natalia Goncharova for the 1926 Ballets Russes London production of Stravinsky’s Firebird.
Ten minutes’ walk away at Stratford Waterfront, a five-story museum designed by Dublin-based architects O’Donnell + Tuomey will take a 360-degree view on the designed world. Two collection galleries and a programme of major exhibitions will offer cross-cultural and contemporary perspectives on the way we live today. The top floor will feature commissions, installations and interdisciplinary projects generated through collaboration across the East Bank campus and beyond. Three outdoor terraces will give spectacular views across the Park.
A pioneering partnership with the Smithsonian Institution – the foremost museum and research complex in the US – will deliver an innovative programme bridging art, design, science and the humanities, exploring topics of pressing global importance to society today. The inaugural exhibition in 2023 will be a world-first co-production by the two institutions, after which one in four exhibitions will be from the Smithsonian’s acclaimed programme, brought from the USA to London for the first time.
The museum at Stratford Waterfront will sit alongside UAL’s London College of Fashion, a new Sadler’s Wells theater, and BBC spaces for performance, rehearsal and broadcast – its founding partners in the East Bank project – the £1.1bn powerhouse of culture, education, innovation and growth taking shape as part of the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The partners are already active in east London with programmes of events, collaborations and activities developed together with local organisations and involving thousands of people from across the Olympic boroughs. Building relationships and networks across the many and varied local communities of east London is helping shape the collective East Bank project and ensure it is firmly rooted in its new neighborhood by 2023.
V&A Director Tristram Hunt said: “V&A East is timely and ambitious, allowing everyone to discover the national collections we look after in entirely new ways. With a 360-degree view of the V&A’s work – from collecting and conservation to experimental research and development – this future-facing project will bring art, design and performance into dialogue with current affairs, and will inspire the next generation of creative thinkers and the makers of the future.
“Whether in Stratford, South Kensington, Scotland or Shenzhen, we are continuing to open up the vast collection that the V&A holds on the nation’s behalf, and we hope the V&A East becomes a place that sparks the imagination for generations to come.”
The V&A East project opens the latest chapter for the V&A in east London that began with the opening of the Bethnal Green Museum in 1872 – now the much-loved V&A Museum of Childhood which is itself undergoing a major transformation project in the coming years.
V&A East’s two venues will be open to everyone from school children, students, artists and designers to tourists, visiting academics and curious passers-by. People across the neighboring boroughs are already helping to shape the project, and the V&A will continue to forge new partnerships as the project develops.
Tim Reeve, V&A Deputy Director and COO said: “From the moment of an object’s acquisition, through its conservation, the research, enquiry and debate that follow, to its display as part of the story of an exhibition, V&A East will – for the very first time – illuminate the entire lifecycle of a museum and its collection in an ‘access all areas’ experience for visitors.”
“It is vital that this latest member of the V&A family is developed collaboratively with its local community, and that we use this opportunity to deepen our long-standing relationship with east London. There is limitless scope for synergy and collaboration at Here East, and across the wider East Bank campus. Through our partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, we have the potential to support the next generation in east London and beyond – as change-maker, centre of innovation, and creative sourcebook for all.”
Elizabeth Diller, Partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro said: “V&A East will be a new model for collection storage and public display. Planned from the inside out, this project will be like stepping into an immersive cabinet of curiosities—a three-dimensional sampling of the eclectic collection of artefacts, programmed with diverse spaces for research, object study, workshops, and back-of-house functions.”
Graham Ross, Partner at Austin-Smith:Lord, said: “We were thrilled to be invited by Diller Scofidio + Renfro to collaborate with them at the competition stage on this extremely exciting project for the V&A. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with the V&A and DS+R’s team, drawing upon our collective experience in delivering high profile arts and culture projects.”
Rob Firman, Project Director, Austin-Smith:Lord said; “The V&A’s vision for the V&A East is ambitious and pioneering. Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design concept is a stunning architectural response. Having worked with Diller Scofidio + Renfro to develop the original concepts we look forward to working with the team through the next stages of the design and construction of this landmark project.”
Key project team members:
Client: The Victoria and Albert Museum
Lead Designer: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Executive Architect: Austin-Smith:Lord
Engineering (Structures and Services): Arup
Principal Design Advisers: Orsa
Cost Consultant: Gardiner & Theobald
Project Manager: Artelia
News courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro