It’s amazing to think that the newly revealed courtyard at the VVictoria and Albert Museum was once the site of a boiler room and unprepossessing utilities squatting between two wings of the magnificent museum. A brand new V&A Exhibition Road Quarter opens to the public this week (with a programme of celebratory events) #RevealVAM #ExhibitionRoad and it is breathtaking to behold.
Architect Amanda Levete of AL_A has spent the last six years on this project and has transformed the wasted space into a cool piazza (The Sackler Courtyard) which leads temptingly through to the John Madejsky Garden and will draw visitors straight into the heart of the museum.
Below, through vast doors is an exhibition space which leads down, via fabulous shiny staircases in striking red and black, to a massive exhibition space. This is where the V&A’s temporary (blockbuster) exhibitions will now be on show. The glory of the design is that, unseen to the public, is a further, subterranean space below, where all the objects and design ideas can be stored in a kind of rehearsal space, before being set in place above.
This project is the largest construction project since the Museum was built in 1909. It feels very contemporary, with smooth curves and sharp edges and clean lines. I hope that everyone who comes will note the details too – the smart, grooved ceramic tiles which create the courtyard paving, the details in wood to direct you, the clever geometric mosaics in the floor and the way the lines unite to create pleasing abstract shapes.
I look forward to returning when the space is filled with visitors and watching how people interact with the architecture. This is very much a space to represent the way we live now – complementing the Museum’s commitment to contemporary design and innovation, but offers us a portal into the brilliance and invention of the way people used to live and the astonishing collection of human achievement which the building contains.