Amanda Levete, who had worked for Moira Gemmill on a number of projects at the V&A, pays tribute to her ‘extraordinary’ client
Levete has described Gemmill as an ‘extraordinary’ client with a ‘commitment to architecture and design excellence. Gemmill died yesterday (09 April) after being hit by a lorry whilst on her way to work at St James Palace.
She was best known for her role at the V&A, where she was director of design and also led the planning and implementation of FuturePlan – the V&A’s on-going programme of restoration, refurbishment and redesign of its galleries and public spaces.
AL_A founder Amanda Levete was commisioned by Gemmill to design the V&A’s new courtyard and underground extension.
She paid tribute to her client: ‘I had the privilege of working very closely with Moira for over four years on the V&A Exhibition Road project and she was instrumental in our winning the commission.
‘Moira was extraordinary. Her commitment to architecture and design excellence, her knowledge, her empathy and her ambition to push the boundaries was matched by her rightly tenacious hold over the public purse.
‘This all made her a very special client. But my abiding memory of Moira was her passion. She felt deeply about things and was not afraid to express her emotions. Moira was always real. Her passion was matched by ours which sometimes led to combative debates. But secretly we both enjoyed these and we always ended up finding a solution that did not involve compromise.
She added: ‘When Moira took the decision to leave the V&A for new challenges at the Palace, our relationship changed. We met as confidantes rather than as client and architect. We shared lunches and dinners where we would gossip and put the world to rights. She talked of her ambitions for the Royal Palaces. She would have breathed life and relevance to these places in a way that found no contradiction between heritage and modernity.
‘The last time we met was at her leaving event at the V&A earlier this year. We talked just before she was about to give her leaving speech and she said she was worried she might cry. I told her, feet firmly on the ground, BBC hands, you’ll be fine. She gave a moving and funny speech. She didn’t cry but I did.’