Victoria and Albert Museum to unveil new expansion

London's Victoria and Albert Museum gets a US$70 million (S$96.7 million) upgrade, the new project is called Exhibition Road Quarter and construction began in 2013.
The Victoria and Albert museum, which is staging an exhibition of paraphernalia linked to British iconic rock group Pink Floyd (left), is launching an exhibition space that will be among the largest in Britain.
The Victoria and Albert museum, which is staging an exhibition of paraphernalia linked to British iconic rock group Pink Floyd (left), is launching an exhibition space that will be among the largest in Britain.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

LONDON • The Victoria and Albert Museum, the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, is set to draw more traffic with fresh visitor-friendly ways.

It is completing its biggest building project in a century, with a new courtyard entrance and foyer, opening on Friday, intended to make it easier for the public to gain access.

The museum is also inaugurating a vast exhibition gallery.

British architect Amanda Levete and her team have dug into an underused corner of the museum to create a nearly 12,000 sq ft temporary exhibition space that will be among the largest in Britain.

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Until now, the museum's blockbusters - including a 2013 show on rock star David Bowie and a 2015 one on fashion designer Alexander McQueen - have been staged in Victorian rooms converted into galleries that visitors enter through a maze of corridors and collection displays.

The new director of the museum, Mr Tristram Hunt, a 43-year-old historian and former member of the British Parliament, said the redevelopment was needed because there was "this totally dead space of technical services and old huts right in the heart of the estate of the museum".

"The crucial driver was creating a really top-of-the-range exhibition space because at the moment we're slightly higgledy-piggledy in our exhibition galleries," he added.

Mr Hunt said the project cost £54.5 million (S$97 million).

Of the total, about £49.5 million had been raised, while £1 million would come from additional fund-raising and the rest from the museum's commercial revenues.

Ms Levete has both preserved the existing architecture and added to it.

Visitors will enter the courtyard through an elegant 1909 stone colonnade designed by one of the architects of the original Victoria and Albert Museum, Mr Aston Webb.

The courtyard has been raised and paved with 10,100 porcelain tiles bearing geometric patterns designed by Ms Levete.

On the left side of the courtyard is a modern, glass-fronted cafe with a sharply slanting roof.

Across from the courtyard is the foyer, through which visitors can enter the new exhibition galleries - as well as the museum itself.

The museum is also staging an exhibition of paraphernalia linked to British iconic rock group Pink Floyd that runs till Oct 1.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Victoria and Albert Museum to unveil new expansion'. Print Edition | Subscribe