The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is recruiting an architect for a major £2.25 million overhaul of its landmark main entrance on Cromwell Road
The winner of the £225,000 contract will draw up plans for a phased transformation of the Grade I-listed venue’s main entrance rotunda. The search for a design team comes one year after the South Kensington museum opened a new £48 million entrance by AL_A fronting nearby Exhibition Road.
The first phase of the project will redesign the imposing entrance’s glass doors and security bag check area. The second phase, planned to complete in 2020, will upgrade the rotunda’s entrance desk, furniture, cloakroom, toilets, lighting, and heating.
In its brief, the museum describes the entrance as an ‘iconic space’ which ‘has acted as a welcome and hub for visitors for over 100 years, not only as a point of orientation and visit planning, but as a centre for events of all types – Friday Lates, private views, donor receptions, curated performances.
‘Regular large-scale installations – and the long-term loan of the Chihuly chandelier – have made this a key site for the museum’s public programme. Our aim is to harness the potential of the impressive dome area while creating a space in which visitors feel at ease, are motivated to explore the museum further and are provided with everything they need to make the most of all the V&A has to offer.’
Founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the V&A is the world’s largest museum dedicated to design and the decorative arts with more than 2.3 million objects in its collection.
The main entrance upgrade project is latest to emerge from the museum’s high-profile FuturePlan renewal programme which aims to harness the ‘best contemporary designers’ to improve visitor facilities inside the Grade I-listed Aston Webb-designed landmark (pictured).
Other major projects in the pipeline include a photography centre by David Kohn Architects along with a £25 million collections centre by Diller Scofidio + Renfro for the V&A’s new outpost on the Olympic Park.
The main entrance upgrade aims to create an ‘outstanding visitor experience’ while also promoting design excellence and accessibility. Shortlisted teams will receive a £1,000 honorarium and bids will be evaluated 70 per cent on quality and 30 per cent on cost.
The search for a design team coincides with the V&A advertising for a new director of design and FuturePlan to replace David Bickle who stood down in April after three years in the role. His replacement will oversee all competitions and appointments while also co-ordinating the expansion of the museum across its new satellite sites.
The deadline for applications is 5pm, 3 August.
How to apply
View the contract notice for more information
Victoria and Albert Museum
Tel: +44 2079422229
Tim Reeve, deputy director and chief operating officer of the Victoria and Albert Museum
What is your vision for the new Cromwell Road entrance?
In all our capital works we aim both to celebrate the beauty and elegance of our existing buildings and to champion the best new design. Answering the needs of a 21st-century audience within an imposing 19th-century structure demands a wealth of creative and empathetic intelligence, and will only be achieved through partnership and innovative thinking.
The brief is intentionally non-prescriptive – we don’t want to approach this with any preconceptions. The Cromwell Road entrance is the point of first encounter for most of our visitors – even with the opening of the Exhibition Road Quarter – and so needs to embody the values of the V&A, as a place of imagination and ingenuity that is open to all. We want to rethink how we welcome our audiences and inspire them to explore the full extent of what the V&A has to offer.
The full suite of entrance spaces covers 718m². They are Grade I* listed so any interventions will be subject to approval. In addition, the area is regularly used for performances, installations and events, so needs to be extremely agile. Excellent – and prescient – architectural design will be fundamental to realising our ambitions for this space.
We always take every opportunity to reduce our ecological impact with each new initiative. A key ambition of this project is to improve environmental control within the entrance, reducing our reliance on heating/air conditioning. We will also be replacing lighting systems with new, more sustainable LED lamps.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We are looking for practices or design teams that bring together a deep understanding of user experience and 3D design, to develop a solution which has visitors at its heart. We welcome responses from smaller or emerging practices, as we are committed to working with new talent whenever possible.
As the main entrance to the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance – which last year welcomed around 4 million visitors from across the globe – this space is a powerful platform for designers to promote their practice.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
The V&A is entering a five-year period of rapid expansion. We are launching Phase 3 of FuturePlan, our world-renowned programme of restoration, refurbishment and regeneration at South Kensington, extending across to the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.
The next few years involve the thrilling challenge of a new V&A East as part of the recently confirmed East Bank development in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and the move of the V&A’s entire reserve collection from Blythe House in west London to a sector-leading open access Collection & Research Centre at Here East. These projects, the most ambitious in V&A history, aspire to define and contribute to the Olympic legacy and ongoing development of east London as our city’s cultural hub.
What will you be looking for in the new director of design and FuturePlan?
This is a career-defining opportunity to help grow and shape one of the UK’s most well-loved cultural institutions and to lead the V&A’s approach to, and involvement with, contemporary design practice.
The role involves commissioning and procuring the highest quality architecture, design, project management and construction – setting the standards of design in the UK. In line with our commitment to broadening access and increasing diversity, we’re interested in applications from candidates with a range of experience and disciplines.
Proven experience and delivery of major capital projects, design leadership and inspirational team leadership skills will be essential.