Cutting-edge traditions: How Dundee’s V&A champions Scotland’s design innovation heritage
Fans of London’s V&A museum should be booking their northbound train tickets to experience the cultural behemoth’s latest outpost: V&A Dundee opens in Dundee in September 2018.
The building adds a dramatic silhouette to the Scottish city’s waterfront skyline and is designed by Japanese artist Kengo Kuma.
Dundee’s known as the City of Discovery because of its pioneering traditions in journalism, global exploration and computer gaming.
And Scotland’s always been an innovative nation when it comes to exporting engineering and architecture on large and small scales — from Stevenson’s lighthouses to Ormiston Wire.
So here’s how Dundee’s V&A champions Scotland’s design innovation heritage.
The building’s angular exterior was inspired by Scottish cliffsides — but positioned at the waterside next to Robert Falcon Scott’s RRS Discovery, it also looks ship-shaped.
The £80.1 million project involved the collaboration of stakeholders including The Scottish Government, National Lottery, Dundee City Council and BAM Construction.
Because of the way it projects into the water, a temporary cofferdam was created in the River Tay to the front, requiring the insertion of 620 piles in the water.
The design’s unusual blend of angles, curves and ledges provides it with a stunning visual impact that’s already put Dundee on the map ahead of its opening — the city’s been named as a hot destination by everyone from Vice to the Wall Street Journal.
And it goes back to the future by combining elements that reference Dundee’s past while looking like it’s beamed down from another planet.
The centrepiece of the museum’s interior will be a restoration of renowned Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room.
The 13.5-metre-long-oak panelled room was originally designed for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tea Rooms in Glasgow and its constituent pieces have been lying in storage for 50 years.
Mackintosh incorporates elements of symbolism and art nouveau and buildings like Glasgow’s School of Art and the Hill House in Helensburgh have become world-famous. His holistic approach means that the smallest features carry his signature style — while modern designers might outsource to The Mat Factory for a personalised doormat, Mackintosh’s aesthetic touches are apparent in everything from doorknobs to desk drawers.
Other objects on display will include a 15th century book of hours, a Cartier Valkyrie diamond tiara and original Beano comic artworks from legendary local publisher DC Thomson.
And fittingly, given the building’s maritime features, the opening exhibition is titled Ocean Liners: Speed and Style.
Perched next to Discovery Point in the environs of the Tay Road Bridge, with the Tay Rail Bridge to the other side, the V&A sticks out, but not like a sore thumb.
As might be expected, its construction has spurred significant investment in the Waterfront area, with hotels, apartments and a refurbished train station in the mix.
Meanwhile, nearby Slessor Gardens have already proven an attractive setting for open-air concerts in Scotland’s sunniest city.
The development should also bring tourist spending to city centre shops, pubs as restaurants, as well as attractions like the McManus Galleries, The Caird Hall and Verdant Works.
And as a student city with two excellent universities, the museum adds another dimension to its reputation as a centre for culture and education.
Once the doors of the V&A open in September 2018, it should herald the dawning of a new era for this famous underdog town on Scotland’s east coast.
The editorial unit