Friday 1 October 2010


The V&A at Dundee’s main function will be, according to their website, to showcase Scottish design talent, provide a UK base for major international touring exhibitions, and promote a wider understanding and application of design.

The design of its own building is at present under discussion and there are now 6 “finalists” from whose work the building will be chosen.

As suggested by somepapfaedundee in an earlier post, I took a trip down this afternoon to Abertay University’s library to have a look at models and details of the designs. Having only previously seen poor quality pics in the local evening paper, it came as a bit of a surprise to me to see the models up close.

Out of geographical context (and it has to be, because the building will be in a totally redeveloped waterfront area of the city), it is difficult to make a sound judgement about which building is the most aesthetically suitable or pleasing. Interestingly the new building will actually be built out into the river itself and it’s important to take that into consideration when considering the design and materials.

Of course whatever design is chosen, it will displease more people than it will please, but at least the authorities (The V + A, our two universities, the local council and Scottish Enterprise) are giving the public a say in which of the shortlisted designs will be built.

My preference is for the offering from “Rex”, a design company based in New York City, or the Norwegian Snøhetta’s design. Unfortunately, given the remit of the facility to promote Scottish design, the only Scottish offering is, in my opinion, dull and looks more like an electricity generating plant than a museum of art and design.

Better photographs and more details of the architects, the buildings, and how they might fit into what may be there when the whole waterfront is redeveloped, can be seen on the website linked here.

I’d be interested in anyone else’s opinions....

The pics here show, 1 Sutherland Hussie (Edinburgh); 2 Steven Holl (New York + Beijing); 3 Snøhetta (Oslo); 4 Rex (New York); 5 Kengo Kuma (Tokyo and Paris); 6 Delugan Meissl (Vienna).


  1. Nice post tris, glad you went to see the designs.

    Aye, the REX one is nice, particularly having seen the models. I can't see the seagulls not turning the beautiful Kengo Kuma model into a colony unfortuantely, still have a soft spot for Snohetta though.

    I'm of a similar mind to yourself regarding the lone Scottish entry on the shortlist :(

  2. Very disappointing Dundee. I would have loved it to be the best. But other people viewing were saying how dull it was, and the comments on the wall (the stickers) were mainly for Rex.

    From certain angles Rex looks like a giant liner in the Tay. It would be absolutely spectacular at night.

    Of course experts must look at the designs from practical as well as aesthetic viewpoints and I didn't pay much attention to the interiors. [Information overload in a short visit (with car on a parking meter).] As someone commented, the Norwegian design is very low lying...the echibits are very pricey, and the Tay can be very stormy!!!

  3. Snøhetta has my vote as it is the most practical as all the others will have structural/invasive (exspensive) potential problems.

  4. I was keen on it too..although it is very low lying, and the river can be rough. But I've no technical expertise so I'm going on aesthetics alone, and leaving the techy stuff to brighter beings! :))

  5. "I've no technical expertise" Ah but you have tris have you never built a house with cards the higher you go the more cautious one has to be, same principal. Think simple lasts longer.

    I think its daft building in a river anyway but you only asked on design not situation!

  6. I favoured the design by REX as well and got the impression that the general consensus was for that design. Regrettably as I understand it, it will not be the public who decide but rather a panel of “experts” who have promised to take into consideration the wishes of the people. Hence this exercise in participation. I cannot understand why they can’t leave it totally to the public to decide on the building they like, it’s as if they don’t think we are mature enough to make the right decision even though it’s us that will have to look at it every day. So hold on to your hats folks we might very well end up with the one that looks like a nuclear power station. Somebody asked me if anyone had told Sutherland Hussey that they did not have to match the building to what was already there i.e. the leisure centre and Tayside House as they were all going to be pulled down!

  7. I was always taught that the essence of good design was, "form and function". Whatever the design was for it had to perform the function that was required and it had to look good.

    You're right about the Scottish design which does look like a power station but the others don't look that brilliant either.

    If the building is in the river beside Dundee then the building should look natural in the river and it should fit in with the sweep of the Firth of Tay as it heads for the sea. Perhaps even some nod to Dundee's history and current architectural heritage or even a nod to the landscape of Dundee but apart from Snøhetta, which looks like a nondescript pier, they all look like some child has had a couple of mad moments with his lego set.

    What are the maintenance costs going to be for these odd structures which are going to be in a mixed freshwater/saltwater environment and what are the internal spaces going to be like. Will they work as a museum?

    I mean, I could design something which looked shiny and was made of of odd rhombic blocks and it would fit right in with this lot even though I'm no architect. It's not what it looks like when it's new that matters, it's what it looks like twenty years down the line when the shine's come off.

    I wouldn't choose any of them.

  8. Well CH, I'm wondering why it has to be built in the river which will increase its building and maintenance costs and may even make access a little difficult in bad weather.

    They are going to knock down the hideous 1960s leisure centre and the even more revolting Tayside House, so there will be plenty of space. However, that’s a done deal. It will be in the river.

    But I’m not sure about the 'keeping it simple' bit. If we went with that we’d end up with a Nissan hut!!

  9. Munguin: I imagine in fairness that they were all given the same brief. I think it's deeply regrettable that the Scottish one is among the least attractive. But taking some other people's points, it may be the most practical. It certainly looks the most solid!

  10. Doug: The actual models do look a lot more interesting than the pictures.

    The designs of the Dundee Hilton was supposed to be based on a jute mill, although I'm not sure I can see it. I'd much rather have the mill than the hotel.

    The other buildings around about are an amazing mixture of styles. As Munguin said the awful leisure centre and Tayside House along with the plastic railway station are destined to be pulled down, so we are left with two pretty grim looking hotels and some luxury flats which lack any kind of distinction.

    Who knows what else is going there design wise?

    One thing I should have thought we would have learned by now was that, close to the sea as we are, there is an ongoing and seemingly intractable problem with Seagulls. Whatever we have must be able to disguise their all pervasive guano!

    I think that any “modern” looking building will have a problem of looking hideously dated in 20 years’ time. In view of that, my suggestion would have been to look at the nearby Customs House to see if internal renovations and repairs to its fabric could have made it suitable for the purpose.

    In the current economic climate, it might be a lot cheaper to do that!

  11. All of those buildings look and are disasters of conception.

  12. I worked in most of the museums in South Kensington and the V&A was one of them. Now look at those buildings, look at the designs. That's classic building construction.
    What do I think of the above designs? Well.....
    There you go. You can tell the quality of a building by the time it takes to build it (that is without setbacks, lazy workers etc) and guaranteed the V&A in Dundee won't take that long.

    Modern art and architecture is pish.

  13. HERE HERE Harbinger!

    It is simply "pish"

  14. Tris

    Why did we get the pupils of primary one to design the six models? Could we not afford architects?

    I have never seen such a load of crap as these so called designs. If this is the best they can come up with we should start again and get proper architects on the case.

    Let them build any of these in South Kensington, H M big Chic would have a fit.

    P.S. To true Harbinger. I better go and lie down, I AGREE WITH DEAN.

  15. Actually they are all stunning abd adventurous concepts but not in Dundee.

    Bilbao maybe

  16. or Copenhagen Harbour

    but not Dundee, the perspective would be too wrong.

  17. I've worked out where the Architects got their inspiration from.

    1. The heatsink on a computer CPU.
    2. A partially dissembled cardboard box
    3. A helicopter landing pad
    4. Quartz crystals
    5. An aircraft carrier viewed through a toilet window
    6. A futuristic CD drive.

  18. OK OK Guys:

    I think I’m getting the idea that you don’t like them much.

    Harbinger: Welcome to Munguin’s Republic.

    I certainly take your point about the classic design. That was why I suggested the currently disused Custom House. I think that to build something like the V&A today, would cost the kind of money we could never afford, and even if it could be afforded, it too would probably look out of place with all the other new buildings around about.

  19. That explains exactly what you see is wrong with them Dean.....

    I take it you’re a classical design man?

    I repeat, however, that there won’t be money for anything like that now. Modern it will have to be!

    I'm inclined to prefer a rather older fashioned building style myself, but the days when people could afford the materials and manpower for that kind of project are long since gone.

  20. Oh Lordy Anon.... That is a bit of a worry. I hope you’re feeling a bit better now.

    On the rare occasions that Dean and I agree about anything I find that a few days in a hair shirt works wonders!!

    (Sorry Dean...only joking.. it’s more like a couple of weeks! :o)))

    Have you actually seen the models, or are you only going by the pretty hopeless pictures. I admit they are not great, but they are better than the pictures suggest.

    I doubt Big Ears will want to poke his nose into what is going on in Dundee. Of course he might want to break the law again by interfering with the planning process and putting undue pressure on the planning committee here, or I suppose using his influence with the V&A.

    Of course he might want to put his hand in his sporran and stump out for a building of the standard that he is lucky enough to be accustomed to living in!

  21. It's a pity in a way that Bilbao has a reputation for the avant garde, and Dundee for 1960s' tower blocks Buggar. I know what you are saying though. It's likely to look out of place here.

  22. Brilliant Doug... and worth a post on its own....

    You're dead right too!

  23. The Nissan a Hut wins then tris and we can get off cloud cuckooland to fulfill overinflated real estate developers egos.

  24. Even the proposed woodburning stove from Forth Ports looks better than these designs.
    And what's the point of building a nice museum if it's next to two windmills and a smokestack anyway ?

  25. Is it. Design expert?

  26. F**k me! I didn't realise you had so many Prince Charles wannabees folowing your blog guys ;)
    You should be working for a political party, you cannae half get the curmedgeons out! lol

    'design expert'? yeravinalaffmate! lol!

  27. Ah yes, well we have a big royal following Dundee.

    I sometimes wonder if munguin himself isn't prince Philip!!

    We've got all sorts of waifs and strays on here...LOL

    I might just start a political party.

  28. Great post! I like the innovative design of the buildings. Maybe in the near future buildings and homes will look like this. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Hi builders.

    Well I doubt if ordinary people could afford buildings that look like this... but for sure we will be having one building like that in Dundee at least.

    When the decision is made, I will post on it.

    Thanks for your interest.