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MUMA balustrade ‘explodes’

The glass balustrade of McInnes Usher McKnight Architects (MUMA)’s staircase at the multiple award-winning V&A Medieval & Renaissance Galleries has ‘exploded’

The staircase, which is the centrepiece of the museum’s £30 million revamp, was evacuated and closed to the public three weeks ago after several panels spontaneously shattered.

MUMA landed the staircase job under the V&A FuturePlan programme, which commissions new architecture for the museum. The V&A gallery extension has won a number of awards, including the WAF Structural Design of the Year Award, the British Construction Industry Conservation Award, and best architectural achievement at the British Design Awards 2010.

A V&A museum worker said the glass balustrade ‘exploded’, and speculated that ‘heat and cold’ could be to blame. MUMA declined to comment.

The staircase design featured a glass balustrade bonded to a stainless-steel plate bolted to the in-situ concrete cast structure. The practice employed balustrade subcontractor TP Aspinall, who also declined to comment.

A V&A spokesperson confirmed that an investigation was ongoing. They said: ‘We cannot confirm the cause until the assessment is complete but
a programme for replacement is now underway.’

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


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