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The V&A Dundee: Scotland's first design museum

The only outpost of the V&A museum in the world outside London, V&A Dundee is Scotland's first design museum. It just opened to the public in September and it’s intended to be an international center for design, a place of inspiration, discovery, and learning. 

Designed by internationally acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma,the museum stands at the center of the transformation of the Dundee waterfront, once part of the city’s docklands. With its complex geometry, inspired by the dramatic cliffs along the east coast of Scotland, it stretches out into the River Tay – a new landmark reconnecting the city with its historic waterfront.

“The big idea for V&A Dundee was bringing together nature and architecture, to create a new living room for the city,” explains the Japanese architect. “I’m truly in love with the Scottish landscape and nature. I was inspired by the cliffs of north-eastern Scotland – it’s as if the earth and water had a long conversation and finally created this stunning shape. I hope the museum can change the city and become its center of gravity”.

The building is formed of two angular volumes. These are clad in 2,500 horizontal concrete panels, which connect on the first floor to form a single building. The museum extends over the River Tay with a pointed corner that protrudes like the bow of a boat. This prow-shaped space contains the museum's large entrance space, cafe and shop, with timber walls the reference the building's concrete exterior cladding. V&A Dundee's galleries are accessed by a ceremonial staircase in the foyer. On the first floor, the museum's 1,100 square metre temporary gallery, and the permanent Scottish Design Galleries, are accessed from a central foyer.

At the heart of V&A Dundee, they tell the story of Scotland’s exceptional and international design heritage. Curated in collaboration with the V&A, these galleries are free to enter and feature around 300 exhibits drawn from the remarkable collections of the V&A, as well as from museums and private collections across Scotland and the world, covering architecture, ceramics, engineering, fashion, furniture, healthcare, jewelry, textiles, video game design and more.

At the center of these galleries stands Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s magnificent Oak Room, fully restored and preserved for future generations. The 13.5-metre-long paneled room was originally designed for Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street tearooms in Glasgow in 1907, before being saved – and placed in storage in hundreds of pieces – almost 50 years ago. 

“It is fitting that the restored Oak Room by Charles Rennie Mackintosh is at the heart of this building as I have greatly admired his designs since I was a student," said Kuma. "In the Oak Room, people will feel his sensibility and respect for nature, and hopefully connect it with our design for V&A Dundee”.


Other key objects in the Scottish Design Galleries include a beautifully decorated 15th century Book of Hours, a spectacular Cartier ‘Valkyrie’ diamond tiara, original Beano artworks from Dundee publishers DC Thomson, and the snap40 digital device which is designed to improve healthcare.

The museum also includes: dynamic learning spaces to accommodate visitors of all ages and backgrounds to learn from and participate in design creativity; a design residency studio where designers will share work-in-progress with visitors; a multi-purpose auditorium for conferences, design jams and community events, and a restaurant with spectacular views from its open terrace over RRS Discovery and the River Tay.

www.vam.ac.uk/dundee

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