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V&A unveils £31 million British Galleries update

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The Victoria and Albert Museum has unveiled the first designs for the £31 million recreation of its British Galleries, to form the subject of a £23 million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in May. The galleries, which represent 10 per cent of the space at the museum and are as large as many museums, will, said curator Christopher Wilk, 'still be chronological'. A number of themes will run through the exhibitions and there will be more interpretation. 'At the moment, ' said Wilk, 'these galleries don't tell you anything about the history of design - the V&A is uniquely situated to do that.'

Dinah Casson of designer Casson Mann explained that her scheme will be physically separate from the Grade I-listed Aston Webb building.

This will both avoid heritage conflicts and 'help people to see objects in a fresh new way'. Attention is being paid to orientation, to mixtures of grand and intimate spaces, and to design for disabled people. WCs will be installed and for the first time lifts will link the two floors of galleries. There will be air-conditioning beneath a raised floor, and double glazing. The architect for the project is G A Associates.

Asked whether there was any conflict between this project and the proposal for the Boilerhouse by Daniel Libeskind, V&A director Alan Borg said, 'I hope that the world will see that the essence of the V&A is a combination of historic and contemporary elements.'

The museum expects to submit Libeskind's scheme for planning permission at the end of this month, on completion of the latest model. It is also seeking feasibility funding from the Arts Council for exploration of the internal design. It intends to make its full submission for Arts lottery funding in August.

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