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Bold V&A museum transforms Scotland’s Dundee

September 13, 2018

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DUNDEE: The first offshoot of the Victoria and Albert Museum outside London situated on the banks of the River Tay in Scotland on Wednesday.—Reuters
DUNDEE: The first offshoot of the Victoria and Albert Museum outside London situated on the banks of the River Tay in Scotland on Wednesday.—Reuters

AN architectural gem on Scotland’s northeastern coast in the angled shape of design museum V&A Dundee has sparked hopes of a new start for a long-forgotten city. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who is designing Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic stadium, has created a structure that resembles two hulls sitting side by side on the banks of the River Tay in a nod to Dundee’s long history of shipbuilding. Its concrete walls are covered in panels of grey rough stone to recall a craggy Scottish cliff, and an arch between the twin edifices links the road to the river — a reflection of Kuma’s goal to reconnect the city with the sea.

The first offshoot of the Victoria and Albert Museum outside London houses treasures such as a salvaged tearoom designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and a 15th-century Book of Days. These vye with modern artefacts such as a dazzling Cartier tiara with moving wings and original storyboards from Dundee’s own Beano children’s comic, featuring Dennis the Menace in his characteristic striped jumper.

The museum’s curators hope it will transform Dundee, around an hour’s journey north of Edinburgh, into a must-see destination for tourists and art lovers in the same way as the Spanish port city of Bilbao was transformed by its titanium Guggenheim Museum. “It is a cultural milestone for Dundee, and also a landmark moment for the history of the V&A, an important opportunity for the UK to show the world how design can enrich lives,” said Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A in London.

Dundee’s history is steeped in seafaring, textiles, and publishing. But in rec­ent years its decline has made it more well-known as the place in Britain with the highest proportion of drug-related deaths. The idea for a museum came when officials at Dundee Uni­ver­sity inv­ited former V&A director Mark Jones to take part in the one billion pound waterfront regeneration project 10 years ago. Hunt said V&A Dundee was “a truly int­ernational museum fir­mly rooted in loc­al relevance ... at a time of far too much inward-looking nationalism and parochialism. Museums can and do make a difference.”

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2018