REX architecture: V&A at dundee shortlisted design

milimetdesign updated from www.designboom.com

design proposal of ‘V&A at dundee’ by REX
all images courtesy REX and V&A at dundee

earlier this year, the dundee city council launched an international architecture competition
to design a new £47m center for art and design. ‘V&A at dundee‘, which will sit on the bank
of the river tay at the foot of the city’s union street, is a collaborative effort by london’s
victoria and albert museum
, abertay and dundee universities, dundee city council and
scottish enterprise. the new center will be scotland’s leading centre for design and art.

one of the 6 shortlisted international firms is new-york based REX headed by principal architect
joshua prince-ramus
. the design is a crystallized volume clad in mirror glass. much like the louisiana
museum of modern art in denmark, the centre utilizes a spoke-and-hub system of organization,
creating multiple gallery spaces that can function independently from one another.


night view

the overall form of ‘V&A at dundee’ is of an upside down pyramid: tapered at the bottom
with an extended face at the top. this configuration simultaneously minimizes the building’s
footprint while maximizing on the space allotted for the galleries. the larger open area at
the foot of the center also allows for the generation of public space in the form of an exterior plaza.
the tapered shape also has the ability to self-shade during the summer, while still allowing
in a large amount of natural daylight–an important factor in a museum institution–through its
abundance of skylights. the faceted form of the building not only economizes the space but
also becomes a secondary structural layer of diagonal perimeter columns.


street view from steeple church

the project is divided into four levels: the ground-level marshalling area, a civic area,
an incubator layer for scottish design, and the exhibition space on the top floor.
these layers pivot around a central core which houses the building’s lifts, toilets,
mechanical/electrical/plumbing and fire stairs. by centralizing these programs, the rest of
the space can be arranged freely and flexibly around the perimeter and benefit from
natural daylight. the core also serves as the building’s primary gravity and lateral support.

the interstitial spaces in between the individual gallery rooms provide an area free of
a set program, which allows the museum to adapt to a number of varying needs.
the gallery promenade may host smaller works, provide a space for educational gatherings
or accommodate for transportable retail points.


site plan


sectional elevation looking northeast


elevation looking northwest


diagram of form and arrangement

(1) create a ‘layer cake’ – each of the four layers are dedicated to and equipped for specific duties: exhibition, creative, civic, marshaling. the cube form,
however, is not cost or energy efficient, nor would it be possible to accommodate all galleries on a single floor.
(2) stretch the top – in order to maximize the flexibility of the exhibition space and to facilitate continuity of patron experience, the top of the cube is stretched
to fill all the galleries. this also allows for more natural light thereby reducing the museum’s highest energy demand.
(3) contract the base – by reducing the building footprint to its smallest, the building’s sub-structure cost is considerably reduced, leaving a larger budget
to generate public space in the form of an exterior plaza. union street’s axis is extended far into the river tay, providing locals and visitor’s uninterrupted views.
(4) maximize sustainability – the resulting shape maximizes on daylight penetration into the galleries while providing the largest horizontal surface possible
for solar and rainwater collection. the tapered shape has a self-shading effect during the summer.
(5) centralise the core – a centralized core and eight trusses serve as the building’s primary gravity and lateral support. the core houses the lifts, toilets,
mechanical/electrical/plumbing and fire stairs. this arrangement increases circulation while pushing all programs to the perimeter with direct access to daylight.
(6) shrink wrap – the inverted pyramid form is then shrink-wrapped around the hub-and-spoke gallery spaces to economize area and to create a secondary
structural layer of diagonal perimeter columns.
(7) reflect the surroundings – the facade is clad in mirror glass to reflect the river tay, the sky and surroundings. the angled nature of the exterior will prevent
sunlight from blinding the local establishments.
(8) evoke a bluebell – the resulting form is an unexpected but iconographic building concept, resembling a scottish bluebell.


(top) typical circulation vs. hub-and-spoke – the conventional museum procession of a linear loop of galleries is a major curatorial and operational problem:
all the galleries must be used at once and it is difficult to subdivide the space during the mounting/dismounting of a show. it also fixes the sequence in which
the visitors see the art work. the ‘hub-and-spoke’ organization centralizes the patrons and art circulation. the fixed sequence is disposed of and allows independent
access to each gallery.

(bottom) different configuration of shows – the hub-and-spoke organization enables one large show, or five different shows simultaneously.


(left) extension of the union street axis
(right) gallery promenade – fissures in the hub-and-spoke arrangement provide moments of repose with views of the river tay and the city of dundee.
this in between space may also be used for smaller works, educational gatherings, or movable retail points.


looking from craig harbour


sectional view looking north


sectional view looking east


view of civic layer as event space


view from within the exhibition layer circulation


floor plan – level 0 / marshalling layer

(1) main entrance
(2) cloakroom
(3) digital wall
(4) orientation/digital wall tribune
(5) grand stair up to level 1/ civic layer
(6) signature restaurant
(7) wine bar
(8) public lift vestibule
(9) public lifts
(10) delivery/collections/marshalling area
(11) forklift storage
(12) security
(13) active object storage
(14) object preparation space
(15) art lift
(16) contractor/marshalling preparation space
(17) staff entrance
(18) staff reception/lobby
(19) staff lift
(20) first aid
(21) reception of goods
(22) non-art deliveries/marshalling area
(23) shared kitchen
(24) dumbwaiter
(25) plant
(26) women’s WCs
(27) men’s WCs


floor plan – level 1 / civic layer

(1) orientation/digital wall tribune
(2) grand stair down to level 1 / civic layer
(3) grand stair up to level 2 / creative layer
(4) tickets/information
(5) waiting area
(6) public lifts
(7) retail
(8) art lift
(9) main hall/event space
(10) promontory
(11) staff lift
(12) cafe/brassiere
(13) prep kitchen/event servery
(14) dumbwaiter
(15) void to destination restaurant
(16) packed lunch zone
(17) family WC/baby change
(18) women’s WCs
(19) men’s WCs


floor plan – level 2 / creative layer

(1) design in action information point/cafe outlet
(2) grand stair up to level 3 / exhibition layer
(3) grand stair down to level 1 / civic layer
(4) design in action tribune (public observation zone)
(5) public lifts
(6) practitioners zone
(7) hoist
(8) plant
(9) offices
(10)staff kitchen/eating area/relaxation area
(11) staff lockers
(12) female staff WCs/showers/changing area
(13) male staff WCs/showers/changing area
(14) art lift
(15) ‘pulpit’
(16) void to promontory
(17) staff lift
(18) family WC/baby change
(19) women’s WCs
(20) men’s WCs
(21) knowledge exchange zone
(22) education zone


floor plan – level 3 / exhibition layer

(1) gallery 1a
(2) gallery 1a contemplation space
(3) gallery 1 connection
(4) gallery 1b
(5) gallery 1b contemplation space
(6) gallery 1 to gallery 2 connection
(7) gallery 2
(8) void to education zone
(9) gallery 3 (design scotland gallery)
(10) gallery 3 storage
(11) grand stair down to design in action tribune (public observation zone)
(12) gallery 4
(13) void to practitioners zone
(14) exhibition layer circulation
(15) public lifts
(16) art lift
(17) staff list
(18) family WC/baby change
(19) women’s WCs
(20) men’s WCs

the other shortlisted firms are kengo kuma, snøhetta, sutherland hussey, steven holl, and delugan meissl.

the university of abertay dundee is currently hosting ‘V&A at dundee – making it happen’
which will exhibit all six shortlisted designs in drawings and models. the public is invited
to give their input and opinions of the designs until the 4th of november, 2010.
the winner will be announced in early november with the final building planned to open in 2014

  • Source:  V&A at dundee/ www.designboom.com
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