V&A Dundee is a new museum which opened its doors to the public on 15th September 2018. It is the first V&A museum outside London and the first museum dedicated to telling the story of Scottish design.
As a local, I watched in anticipation as the museum was built; transforming Dundee’s waterfront. I excitedly attended the opening weekend to see what it was like inside and now, I work there as a Visitor Assistant, so it seems appropriate that I share my views on V&A Dundee.
The building itself is an incredibly striking and beautiful piece of architecture, providing visitors with innovative design before they have even stepped in the door. Made from layered panels of concrete, the architect, Kengo Kuma, took his inspiration for the building from the edge of Scottish sea cliffs. The building also looks quite like a boat which compliments The RRS Discovery ship next door nicely. The iconic archway of the building is a homage to the much loved and missed Royal Arch which was demolished in 1964. The Royal Arch was originally located on Dundee’s docks and was built to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the city in 1844. It is these odes to Dundee’s history and landscape that make the museum’s architecture so clever and iconic.
The gallery spaces in the museum are all on the second floor, with the lower floor acting as a ‘living room for the city’ by providing seats and a café for visitors to relax. There are three galleries: the Scottish Design Galleries, the temporary gallery for the blockbuster exhibitions, and the Michelin Design Gallery.
The Scottish Design Galleries are a free and permanent exhibition. They tell the story of Scottish design by incorporating many different elements including fashion design, furniture design and theatre design, and representing design from all parts of Scotland. There is something for everyone in these galleries and they really showcase the versatility of design.
My favourite part of these galleries is the Oak Room which was designed by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1908 for Miss Cranston’s tearoom in Ingram Street, Glasgow. The panels of the Oak Room were taken from their original location in Ingram Street in 1971 and have been into Glasgow Museum’s storage since, so their display at V&A Dundee is the first time they have all come back together. The dark stain on the oak works well with the carefully placed colourful lights and glass features to create a warm atmosphere.
The museum is free to enter, so the only part of the museum which requires paid admission is the temporary gallery. Ocean Liners: Speed and Style is currently on display there, and runs until 24th February 2019. This exhibition tells the story of the great Ocean Liners of the 20th century, covering themes of shipbuilding and engineering, interior design, and the lifestyle and leisure activities on board. There are many beautiful objects in this exhibition which will have you in awe, and transport you back in time to life on a liner.
The final gallery is the Michelin Design Gallery which is currently displaying the Scottish Design Relay. This was a project which took place prior to the museum opening that involved young people in different parts of Scotland by setting them a challenge to create new prototype designs inspired by their local area and objects in the Scottish Design Galleries. The young people’s designs include furniture made from waste that raises awareness about plastic pollution and a polar bear alarm which was tested out on an expedition to the Antarctic. This exhibit demonstrates the creativity, ambition and innovation of young people across Scotland and provides a flavour of the future of design.
V&A Dundee is still in its early stages, but it is already thriving and making a huge impact on the city. I look forward to seeing how the museum develops in the coming years and what exciting exhibitions will be on show.
Location: V&A Dundee, Riverside Esplanade, Dundee, DD1 4EZ
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm daily
Admission: Free entry. Tickets required for temporary gallery, more information available on website: https://www.vam.ac.uk/dundee