V&A, Dundee

Project team

Client:Dundee City Council

Architect:Kengo Kuma & Associates & PiM.studio Architects

Structural Engineer:Arup

Project Manager/QS:Turner & Townsend

M&E Engineer:Arup

Main Contractor:BAM Construction

Date of completion:2018

The UK’s Victoria & Albert Museum stands on the waterfront of Dundee, a city in the north of Scotland. It is the first design museum in Scotland and is expected to function as a base for promoting Scottish culture.

The building site faces the River Tay which flows south of the Dundee River. The structure projects out over the water, an idea which was proposed for a new type of architecture which blends into the natural environment and the surrounding landscape.

Designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, this extraordinary, £80 million, 8,000m2 building looks (from some angles) like a ship about to sail off into the Firth of Tay, on whose banks it stands. But such is the nature of the building that every perspective suggests something different: sails, a cowry shell or the stratified rock formations that were Kuma’s original inspiration.

To the construction-minded visitor, however, one pressing question immediately presents itself: how does it stand up? “The overall structure works as one,” explains project architect Maurizio Mucciola at PiM studio. “The external walls are tied back via the slabs and the roof to the two central cores - so the building was not stable until the roof structure was complete. It meant much of the supporting exterior formwork and falsework had to stay in place for more than a year until the roof was finished.”

A cave through the center of the building to connect the beautiful nature of River Tay with Union Street: the axis running through the town of Dundee. Dundee was once the most prosperous harbor city in Scotland, but a group of warehouses erected in the 20th century virtually severed the relationship between the river and the city.

For the interior, randomly attached panels worked effectively to create a wide and relaxed space. As the section of the building shows, the space expands upward so visitors can experience a unique sense of openness that wouldn’t exist in the foyer of other museums. Concerts and performances are also held here, making V&A the living room for the whole community of Dundee.

“Take two decks of cards and place them on a table a few inches apart. Then twist them so they join together.” This is how one engineer describes the new V&A Museum in Dundee – surely one of the most remarkably shaped buildings to have been constructed from concrete.

None of its 21 elevations are vertical. Many of them are curved in two dimensions. Concrete walls up to 18m high incline outwards at a variety of unlikely angles and onto these are attached no fewer than 2,429 precast-concrete elements weighing up to three tonnes each.

Featured in CQ Autumn 2018 (pg 4)