The V&A has credited Amanda Levete Architects’ (AL_A) ‘less scary’ entrance for bringing a ‘new wave’ of visitors to the museum
The practice’s £55 million piazza was described by the museum as its ‘biggest architectural intervention in 100 years’.
AL_A’s reconfiguration of the courtyard, which opened up the museum to the street, was completed last June, introducing 1,100m² of temporary exhibition space and 1,500m² of art handling and conservation space.
Museum director Tristram Hunt said the entrance had helped attracted over four million visitors in 12 months – the highest figure in its 166-year history.
‘All the data we have shows that it is much more attractive to non-traditional museumgoers,’ he told The Guardian, adding: ‘It is less, frankly, scary.’
Amanda Levete commented: ‘It’s fantastic that the V&A has achieved record visitor numbers and that the Exhibition Road Quarter has played a big part in that.
‘It shows that more informal entrances, outdoor public spaces and engaging with the street can allow our cultural institutions to welcome more people and especially those who have never set foot in a museum before.’
The figures were also boosted by the success of the museum’s Pink Floyd exhibition, which overtook David Bowie to become the museum’s most visited music display.
The V&A announced the figures as it published its annual review, and revealed its programme for 2019.
In the review, director of design Pip Simpson praised the new entrance for its ‘genuine impact’ on engagement.
The decision to have visitors greeted by a spacious room with screens available on the walls in the Blavatnik Hall was, according to Simpson, ’one of the most interesting discoveries. It’s beautiful, it’s functional, it [has] brought visitors in.’
The new entrance – a surprising omission from this year’s Stirling Prize shortlist – completes a project that was first announced in 1997 when Daniel Libeskind’s controversial ‘Spiral’ scheme was mooted for a 2005 opening.
That scheme was scrapped in 2004 with the subsequent launch of a competition that saw AL_A selected as the winner in 2011.
The museum is now in the process of recruiting an architect for a major £2.25 million overhaul of its Grade I-listed main entrance rotunda on Cromwell Road.