The Victoria and Albert Museum is recruiting an architect to design a £25 million collections centre on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London
The winner of the estimated £1.75 million contract will draw up plans for a major new collection, research and learning hub inside the former Olympic Broadcasting Centre, which Hawkins\Brown is transforming into a £100 million commercial development, dubbed Here East.
The project is an offshoot of the museum’s new V&A East outpost within the park’s £1.3 billion Olympicopolis district. The announcement comes three months after the AJ revealed that height restrictions at the new cultural complex had forced the V&A to downsize its Stratford Waterfront presence and seek an overspill location nearby.
The V&A says it is looking for ‘a creative, analytical architect(s) to respond to our challenging brief to create a new Collection and Research Centre at Here East in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.
‘Under the umbrella of V&A East, the V&A is creating two ambitious new public sites; one is a dynamic museum at Stratford Waterfront and the other a major centre for collection, research and learning at Here East (within the former Olympic Broadcasting Centre), both part of the Cultural and Educational District in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.’
V&A East is a major new outpost of the South Kensington museum, planned for the Olympicopolis cultural district at Stratford Waterfront on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Allies and Morrison, O’Donnell + Tuomey and Arquitecturia won an international contest for the project three years ago.
Last year the AJ reported a major redesign of the £1.3 billion development – so as to preserve protected views from Richmond Park – meant halving the height of two towers and reducing the space available for the V&A East museum.
The latest project – which follows the government’s disposal of V&A’s Blythe House collections store in west London – will deliver an offshoot of the V&A East museum 10 minutes’ walk away inside Here East at the north end of the park.
The two facilities will host a unified lineup of displays, research and learning activities, and public programmes. Recent acquisitions that could feature in either building include a three-storey section of Robin Hood Gardens purchased in November.
V&A chief operating officer and deputy director Tim Reeve said: ‘At the V&A, we want our collection to inspire and empower the next generation of artists, designers and innovators. By making them a central part of our plans for the V&A East project, we hope to transform how they are accessed, and the impact and reach they can have.
‘With initial agreements in place with Here East, we are now seeking an architect who can bring our vision for a world-class collection and research centre to life. We look forward to the architectural community’s response, and to moving the project forward once ministers give the green light.’
Here East chief executive Gavin Poole said: ‘The V&A’s ambition for a new collection and research centre is incredibly exciting, and Here East provides the perfect location. Here East is a unique place, designed specifically to drive collaboration amongst its community of innovators, entrepreneurs, academics and artists.
’The V&A’s plans present incredible opportunities to our existing community and the public. As the V&A brings together the best of design, culture and technology, Here East offers the platform that will drive greater accessibility to the collection.’
Between four and six teams will be shortlisted for the commission, which is expected to feature a fee valued at between 6 and 8 per cent of the total project cost.
The winning architect or collaboration will develop the project from RIBA Stage 1 to 6.
The deadline for applications is midday, 21 February.
How to apply
View the contract notice for more information
Victoria and Albert Museum
Tim Reeve, V&A deputy director and chief operating officer
What is your vision for the new V&A East Collection and Research Centre?
With the planned V&A East Collection and Research Centre we aim to realise a new, cutting-edge model for museum and collection-based study and preservation, whilst at the same time giving greater access to our reserve collection than ever before. Envisioned as a ‘sourcebook for the creative industries’, our ambition is to open up our national collections for everyone, and bring study, learning, conservation, research, and public programmes together, as the V&A decants over 2m objects from our existing stores at Blythe House.
The brief is for roughly 13,500sqm of space within Here East’s existing building, which will need to include collection storage, learning and studio spaces, conservation and technical workshops, space for displays and other types of programme, and of course visitor facilities (including a café and shop), because it will need to look and feel welcoming and accessible.
Architectural innovation will be critical. In order to fulfil our vision, we will need to work with analytical and creative practices who understand how to create impact and drama without a huge budget.
Constraints include the size, weight or density of some parts of the collection, and the unique conditions in which different objects need to be kept. The design must balance the storage, access and security needs of the collection with compelling ‘behind the scenes’ views and visitor experiences.
It is important to underline that the Collection and Research Centre is not a typical museum. Its design, organisation and programming strategy will be driven by an ambitious new model for encountering our collection, expertise, learning facilities, and museum work. Rather than using conventional museum-like approaches to display, we want the appointed design team to embrace the creative potential of its storehouse character, by using the collection volume, museum working practices and the spectacle of storehouse technologies to their full potential.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
This is a major, complex project and we will need an experienced studio to lead the design. However, we imagine that few practices will have all the relevant and necessary skills under one roof, so submissions might include a lead practice working with smaller firms with specific experience.
Our brief is an invitation to architects and designers to respond with bold, imaginative and ingenious solutions, that match our ambitious vision to create a museum treasure house for the twenty-first century.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
The V&A has a rich history of working with the best established and emerging practitioners in architecture and design across its many projects, at South Kensington and elsewhere. In 2017, we unveiled AL_A’s award-winning new courtyard, gallery, and entrance, our new Members Room created with Carmody Groake, and the V&A Gallery at Design Society, Shekou (in Fumihiko Maki’s building and featuring the work of Sam Jacob Studio in our inaugural exhibiton, Values of Design). Later this year, Kengo Kuma & Associates’ V&A Museum of Design, Dundee will open.
Partnerships with the brightest and best in architecture continue to be vital to the success of our work, and we look forward to continuing this with the V&A East project; both at Here East, and at Stratford Waterfront where O’Donnell + Tuomey are designing the new V&A space that will partner complement the Collection and Research Centre. In addition, we’re going to be hiring – not just for a new Director of Design and FuturePlan, with David Bickle’s imminent departure, but also for a new Project Director for V&A East, and a Head of FuturePlan, and it’s an incredibly exciting time to join the V&A.
Are there any other similar collections projects you have been impressed by?
In devising the brief and planning the centre, our team has researched and travelled widely, drawing on a wide variety of references from an Amazon warehouse to the Louvre Lens. We are in close contact with the Boijmans Museum and are excited to see the realization of their Depo Boijmans Van Beuningen, currently on site and designed by MVRDV. However, there is no single model or inspiration, and we believe our plans are unique; we want to create a compelling visitor experience, provide excellent care for our collection, and allow our staff and scholars unimpeded access for research.