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V&A seeks architect for £1m gift shop renewal


The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is seeking an architect for a £1 million overhaul of its gift shop in west London

Planned to complete in 2017, the project will transform the South Kensington museum’s main shop into a new ‘flexible and dynamic’ space with better connections to surrounding exhibition spaces.

According to the contract notice: ‘The V&A is looking for an exciting and ambitious design practice to transform their main shop and introduce a new approach to retail at the museum.’

The document continued: ‘Sitting at the heart of the museum, this site is crucial in defining not only retail within the museum but the visitor experience as a whole.

‘Providing access to and from almost all areas on the ground floor it is traversed by virtually every visitor, whether arriving at or exiting the museum.

‘It is also an iconic destination in its own right, and is regularly featured in lists of the top outlets in London.

‘For all these reasons it is fundamental that the main shop is of a quality to match the surrounding galleries, and is at the forefront of current retail operations and design.’

The project is part of 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).

Carmody Groarke defeated David Kohn and FAT offshoot Ordinary Architecture to win a contest for a new £1.3 million members’ room at the museum in January.

Amanda Levete’s £49.5 million Exhibition Road project to redevelop the V&A’s Boilerhouse Yard entrance is expected to complete next year. New images of the museum’s planned V&A East campus on the Olympic Park – designed by Allies and Morrison and O’Donnell + Tuomey – were also revealed yesterday.

The winning gift shop team – set to be announced in June – will develop the scheme to RIBA Stage 6 (Completion) and fit-out works will begin in February next year.

Applicants must have an annual turnover of at least £200,000 to qualify. Up to five teams will be shortlisted and the deadline for requests to participate is 5.30pm on 6 April.


David Bickle, V&A director of design, exhibitions and FuturePlan

David Bickle

David Bickle

V&A director of design, exhibitions and FuturePlan

What is your vision for renewing the V&A Museum main shop? Our current shop designed by Eva Jiricna ten years ago in 2006 has served us well. At the time, it controversially placed the commercial activities of the museum centre-stage but much has changed since it opened including the demands and expectations of our audience. Making our visitors feel welcomed and offering them stimulating, rewarding and memorable experiences is very important to us. We would like the new museum shop to showcase beautiful and covetable merchandise and act as a stage for maker narratives and events. We want it to become a seamless and integral part of a great day at the museum and potentially a destination in its own right. Needless to say, it must be an economic success too.

What sort of architects are you hoping to work with? We are looking for architects and designers who bring research, insight and knowledge from the museum sector and beyond - to challenge us and anticipate the needs of our visitors. We want them to be motivated, inventive and thoughtful with an attention to detail and an eye on the budget and to think about how the past can shape our future.

What other architectural opportunities are there in the FuturePlan pipeline for the South Kensington site? We have ambitious plans and are currently considering the multiple opportunities available to us.

Will emerging practices be offered a chance to work on elements of the museum’s new V&A East outpost? Definitely when the time’s right! Stratford is clearly a very different place to South Kensington and we will want to work with creative practitioners who understand the differences in context and visitor demographic who will rise to the challenge in creating exceptional environments and experiences.

Which other museum gift shops are you impressed by? I feel that the high street and digital world has much more to offer and suggests alternative retail futures that could be applied to the V&A. Dover Street Market for example is a boutique that thinks it’s a museum. Aesop has developed an intelligent commissioning programme for its global brand and has created an online experience that is second to none, & other stories is a bricks and mortar environment that behaves like a Instagram page or magazine editorial, Spazio Rosanna Orlandi is a very personal edit of the owner’s taste in design so the experience feels rarified and privileged and by contrast Kiosk in New York showcases everyday design in a direct, no nonsense, witty way.


How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road

Tel: +44 2079422924
Email: procurement@vam.ac.uk


Readers' comments (2)

  • Chris Rogers

    "We would like the new museum shop to showcase beautiful and covetable merchandise and act as a stage for maker narratives and events". Blimey. I'd like it to be as it was pre-2006 - quiet, useful, unhurried and witgh an excellent selection of non-UK books on architecture and design. Instead the books have been shoved into less than half of the temporary exhibition gallery shop and the stock emasculated. The V&A - an ace shop with a nice museum attached, would seem to be his version of the future.

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  • Pre-qual? Pre-kill more like..
    The V&A openly supports young creative talent. However when it comes to architecture they have firmly closed the door: the requirements for the V&A Shop pre-qualification state:
    "Please provide details of three contracts...Please note that the authority is looking for experience specifically related to the subject matter of the contract, i.e. the provision of high quality retail or commercial spaces within heritage multi-use buildings that celebrate the existing architecture and facilitate orientation within the building."

    In other words, you have to have done what is essentially the same project at least three times. This requirement will rule out nearly all young practices. Only well-established firms will qualify and as a result gain even more project experience for future pre-qual statements. It seems almost impossible for a young practice to get a foot in the door.

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