Six internationally renowned practices were invited by the V&A Museum to design exhibition space and a new entrances from Exhibition Road and from the pedestrian tunnel beneath it. Exhibition Road should become one of the finest streetscapes in London offering access to many of London’s great museums and buildings including not only the V&A, but the Natural History Museum, Geology Museum, Science Museum and Albert Hall.
The site is a constrained court facing Exhibition Road through the Grade I listed Aston Webb Screen, with the The Henry Cole Wing to the north, and existing museum buildings and the Pirelli Gardens to the east. However, the client was ambitious and the site offered the potential to realise a significant moment in the streetscape.
Our approach was to take the idea of a circular spiral which would allow the flow of people from entrances at basement level (tunnel) through to ground level (museum and Exhibition Rd and at upper levels (museum) to be in one continuous exhibition space, yet one that could be divided if the curators so wished. The resulting organisation led to a conical frustrum form which we proposed clothing in triple glazing. By exploiting the whiteness of both glass and interlayer and by also sandblasting the outer surface it would give the architecture and extraordinary whiteness. This would then be shielded in part to limit solar gain by a free-floating wrap of copper.
The winning project was a controversial cubic spiral by Studio Daniel Libeskind which enjoyed a brief period of notoriety but the project was ultimately abandoned.
A new competition was begun in 2010. We chose not to enter.