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De Matos Ryan’s contentious V&A Museum of Childhood revamp approved

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De Matos Ryan’s proposals for the overhaul of the V&A Museum of Childhood in east London have been granted planning approval

The institution has announced that Tower Hamlets Council has approved £3.3 million plans to ‘radically reimagine and reinvigorate’ its flagship Grade II*-listed museum in Bethnal Green.

The practice’s original contest-winning scheme came in for criticism when it was first revealed in October 2018 with the architect behind the museum’s 2006 extension, Caruso St John, branding the alterations ‘unfortunate’.

Peter St John claimed the ‘substantial changes’ mooted by De Matos Ryan, in particular for the outside of the entrance hall, were ‘not appropriate’ and would impact on the building’s symmetry. 

Architecture Foundation director Ellis Woodman agreed, adding that he feared the plans would ‘mess up a very fine work of architecture’ and were not ‘respectful of the grammar of the earlier work’.

According to the V&A, however, De Matos Ryan’s initial competition proposals have since been ‘refined and developed’ through co-design sessions with local groups and schoolchildren, two public consultations, and following discussions with Historic England, The Victorian Society and Caruso St John.

A spokesperson said: ‘During this process the new front landscape has been carefully reviewed to maintain existing symmetric relationships with the Caruso St John 2006 front lobby extension.’

Co design workshop with the children's forum, february 2019 (c) victoria and albert museum, london

Co-design workshop with the children’s forum, February 2019 (c) victoria and albert museum, london

Source: Victoria and Albert museum, London

Co-design workshop with the children’s forum

Earlier this year, the V&A announced the appointment of east London-based architecture and design practice AOC to lead the development of the museum’s fit-out.

AOC is developing concept designs for three new permanent galleries, a temporary exhibition space and a complete reimagination of the visitor experience throughout the museum. This vision for these spaces is set to be unveiled early next year. 

The redevelopment of the museum is intended to make the museum more immersive and interactive for younger visitors and will feature an outdoor play area and new lower-ground entrance.

V&A Design and FuturePlan director Pip Simpson described De Matos Ryan’s consented plans as ‘the biggest redesign in the building’s entire 147-year-history’.

She added: ‘We are delighted to have reached this significant milestone. De Matos Ryan’s designs are rooted in the needs of our 21st-century audience while celebrating the building’s iconic Victorian structure.

‘By increasing the spaces accessible to the public and improving circulation around the building, De Matos Ryan has developed a scheme that, alongside the plans for fit-out, will enable the V&A Museum of Childhood to realise its ambition to become a world-leading museum of design and creativity for children, families and young people.’ 

Practice co-founders Angus Morrogh-Ryan and José Esteves de Matos said: ‘The museum’s gardens are an incredible and currently untapped resource – so we are pleased to have secured planning approval. Alongside, we’re reimagining what a museum can and should be for in the 21st century to help realise the V&A Museum of Childhood’s incredibly ambitious and exciting new vision to be an international powerhouse of design and creativity for children and their families.’

Work will begin in late 2020. 

Caruso St John's 2006 extension to the V&A Museum of Childhood

Caruso St John’s 2006 extension to the V&A Museum of Childhood

Source: David Grandorge

Caruso St John’s 2006 extension to the V&A Museum of Childhood, as it is today

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