Thursday 4 November 2010


The competition for the design of the new V & A museum in Dundee has been won by the Japanese Kengo Kuma design. My impression, however, when I visited the exhibition (discussions with other people there, and with people on the blog... and reading the comments pinned on the wall of the exhibition room), along with the impressions I got from friends who also visited, was that the first choice of the public was the Rex (New York) design.

A panel of seven “experts”, however, unanimously judged the Japanese design to be the best. Lesley Knox, who chaired the panel, said that it would be one of the continent’s great buildings. Whilst I have to say I doubt that, it was probably my second favourite building of the contenders and it will look impressive in situ, as long as the surrounding architecture is sympathetic..

The winner is a twin footed building stretching out into the river from the quayside with a distinctive slatted stone and glass design. (see pic above)

The building has been costed at around £47 million and will bring much needed building work to Dundee in its initial stages, and on completion, many visitors from all over the country, the UK and the world.

It is an amazing achievement to have such an important museum in our town. It will bring prestige as part of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

So, although I’m disappointed that my choice (also pictured, right) didn’t make it, I’m glad that it was this one that did, and not some of the others!

I’d be interesed if anyone is particularly happy, or disappointed at the result.


  1. Just wait until that famous Dundee 'graffiti artiste', Mhairi Mcgregor and her crew get their hands on it.

  2. I fail to see the point of a public consultation if a panel of experts then ignores the overwhelming desire of the majority of that consultation!

  3. I'm happy with it, if you choose not to go the more subtle route (snohetta) then this was the best design IMO.

    Now let's see them -
    a) deal with the gull issue
    b) make it stand the tests of Scottish light and weather
    c) bring it in on time & budget

    As for the decision making, i'm sure the public responses were weighed up in it - if the panel wanted one that noone else did, it would be a problem. But if they went unanimously for one that had significant public support (even if it wasn't the most popular in public terms), that seems fair enough. I know a lot of people liked the REX design, but I also know a lot of people liked the Kengo Kuma, so unless the public responses are released, we're subject to all sorts of personal cognitive biases around our 'knowing' what everyone else wanted.

    Anyway, it's a stunning design which I think will raise Dundee's profile significantly in and of itself. If properly used in terms of having great content, that effect will be multiplied many times over, drawing visitors to the city and hopefully sparking off new life in Dundee's art and design sector. Dundee has a first rate art&design school in Duncan of Jordanstone, and design can be a very high value industry. Combined with a good tech and science base a forward looking Dundee could finally make the jump and progress from its old industrial heritage to its new.

    (now if only the waterfront development could be done in a fraction of the 30 years they've got it pegged at! sad!)

    Last but not least - well done tris&munguin for covering this, for many reasons.

  4. DL... That's probably why they have it half way to Wormit. Fall while you are at the can spraying and it's a cold wet demise!

  5. Munguin: I'd like to know who the experts are.

  6. Dundee: Sensible points.

    I suspect that the slatted grey stone and glass may make the gull deposits less noticeable. I hope the Glass will be easily cleanable. ( I wouldn’t want to be the windae cleaner!)

    You are right of course. I say, “everyone I talked to”, and that was about half a dozen people; I was there on one day and saw the 'postits' on the wall for the Rex design... but there were many more days. So maybe public opinion was for this one.

    I too am happy with it, but in the end I would have been content with any of them, because of the prestige and benefits that this will bring to our town.

    Of course the building is only a part of it. The contents will need to be equally impressive. It will go a long way, with the Duncan of Jordanstone Faculty of Art and Design to putting Dundee in the game of design... and hopefully will put us back on the tourist trail.

    Like you I can’t believe that the redevelopment of the waterfront will take till 2030. Nothing puts people off more than constant road and buildings works. And tourism must for a part of the future strategy for the town. I suppose that the enormous costs of the redeveopment must be the reason fro the extended timeframe.

    Finally, thanks for your comment on the coverage. It seems to me to be one of the most important things that has happened to the town in the past 10 years, but it’s good to know you think we got it right. :)

  7. Its the stern view of an aircraft carrier in my eyes and I wonder if they have tested it in a wind tunnel as it looks highly unstable.

  8. Maybe it's what they will use the second aircraft carrier for...... I never thought of that!!!!

    Jeez I hope Sarko isn't going to want his bloody jet fighters taking off from it before 9 am.