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Faulty V&A balustrade to be fixed

The shattering of the faulty glass balustrade of the multiple award-winning MUMA staircase at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) was ‘categorically’ not the architect’s fault, a source close to the project has said

The staircase remains unrepaired more than nine months after it exploded in an incident where several glass panels shattered simultaneously. The balustrade breakage meant the staircase centrepiece of MUMA’s £30 million Medieval and Renaissance Galleries project had to be closed to the public.

The source admits there was a design flaw with the structure, but claims it was ‘not an architectural design fault’.

The V&A has so far declined to offer any technical explanation for what went wrong with the innovative structure, however a museum worker speculated that ‘heat and cold’ could be to blame.

The staircase design featured a glass balustrade bonded to a stainless-steel plate, bolted to the in-situ concrete-cast structure.

‘Two alternative designs have been tested almost to destruction and a new balustrade is now being manufactured’, the source confirmed.

According to V&A director of projects and design Moira Gemmill: ‘The V&A is now making good progress on the design of a replacement balustrade for its Medieval and Renaissance Galleries.

‘A prototype of the new design which remains true to the original design intent, has now passed rigorous testing and the team is finalising a programme for its manufacture and installation.’

The project’s original structural engineer, Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners (DMP), is working with the museum to fabricate the replacement balustrades.

MUMA added: ‘The balustrade failure was not due to MUMA’s design or specification.

‘MUMA has worked closely with the V&A and DMP to ensure that the replacement balustrade remains in line with the original architectural design.’

The stair, which replaced the original Aston Webb marble staircase, was subject to delays and was not ready for use when the gallery opened in December 2009.

In 2010, MUMA’s gallery was awarded the British Construction Industry conservation award, the WAF Structural Design of the Year award, and Best Architectural Achievement at the British Design Awards.



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