The V&A Dundee, which opened in September 2018, brought architectural reputation and tourist revenue to the fourth largest city in Scotland, giving a new lustre to its self-proclaimed “City of Discovery” nickname.
Of course, the nickname refers to the ship of that name, designed in Dundee, launched in 1901 and used by Scott and Shackleton on their first voyage to Antarctica. But the name took on a whole new significance with the launch of the first V&A outpost outside London. Now it means a world-class design discovery. Discovering what a difference will make the look, feel and even morale of a community a bold and eye-catching addition to the built environment. Or, at least, discover a fresh and exciting spot to have lunch or put yourself down while enjoying a Flat White with your laptop.
The building rises out of the water in a way that is very fascinating to see, at once mysterious and abstract, but still distinctly boat-shaped. There are no exterior walls that are straight. It was designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who had won the commission’s international competition. Although it was constructed of concrete – lots and lots of concrete – and 2,500 precast stone slabs meant to resemble an imposing Scottish rock face, he described it as “a living room for the city,”
To date, the 1,650 square metres of gallery space in the museum has housed a number of blockbuster exhibits that have drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors collectively. Hello, Robot: Design Between Humans And Machines explored how humans and robots have interacted with the emergence of artificial intelligence since the dawn of the computer age and how far the journey will go. Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, meanwhile, delved into the history of a cultural type to which Dundee has contributed a great deal – Rockstar North, creators of classic games such as Dundee-based Grand Theft Auto, and the city maintains a vibrant digital market.
The current exhibition is dedicated to fashion: it discusses the life, career and legacy of the iconic 1960s designer simply named Mary Quant. It runs until January 17, but reservations are required, time is restricted for entry, and opening hours are limited. The permanent galleries devoted to Scottish architecture over the years are still present.
However, the pleasure and sense of exploration is not confined to the building’s interior. Additional ramps have been installed in a series of what the performers like to call’ interventions’ to make the place even more appealing to skateboarders than it already is. And a so-called “Now Accepting Contactless” was set up over the summer as part of the “Chalkscape” exhibition for kids to play in to demonstrate reactions to the pandemic.
The 30-year, £ 1 billion plan by Dundee to improve its waterfronts is underway. It made an excellent start at the V&A Dundee.