Carmody Groarke has unveiled the design of the new members room at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which opened to members last week
The practice has converted a top-floor, top-lit gallery space in Aston Webb’s Grade I-listed 1909 wing of the museum to enable the V&A to host its members for hospitality events and refreshments. The firm was chosen as the winners of a competition that attracted some 200 entries, including practices such as David Kohn Architects, Ordinary Architecture and Universal Design Studio.
Unlike the previous, rather secluded members room, this new space intends to keep its door open all the time – attracting would-be members who can sign up straight away at a small reception desk alongside the entrance.
Architecturally, the creative adaptation of the vast original gallery has been envisaged as part of the natural continuum of the museum fabric. As such, Carmody Groarke’s designs have subtly restored and retained existing spatial or detail character and where appropriate reinvented architectural features including lighting and furniture.
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The atmosphere of the gallery has been preserved as an open plan, daylight filled room. New architectural interventions have been added to accentuate the qualities of the original building, as well as provide visitor comfort with bespoke furniture which creates smaller rooms within the overall space.
The studio’s design has elevated the original floor level of the gallery almost half a metre to enable visitors to take in views from the existing windows to the Sackler Courtyard overlooking the Sainsbury Gallery, part of the newly unveiled V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, which also comprises the Blavatnik Hall. With the blinds removed, rooflights give a clear view of the lift shaft extended for Daniel Libeskind’s abandoned Spiral scheme – the only part of the project to be built.
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Large mirror installations amplify the activity within the room, creating new perspectives from inside to outside, and to other levels within the museum via a lightwell which provides a visual and aural connection with the existing galleries. The parquet flooring is reclaimed, having previously been in storage at Blythe House.
A series of new furniture pieces and products has been designed by Carmody Groarke exclusively for the members room. Substantial decorative marble tables harmonising with luxurious leather-fixed seating form a spatial counterpoint to the more lightweight, loose furniture and create a mixture of formal and informal areas within the overall room that help create subtle divides within an otherwise open space.
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Original gallery light fittings have been re-interpreted in the design of a new fluted glass luminaire hanging in gently glowing clusters. The centrepiece of the members room is a huge, monolithic terrazzo bar, whose material is a contemporary interpretation of the white marble entrance staircase and whose sculptural, sectional form is intended to rhyme with the mouldings of the ceiling above.
Through a rich accumulation of details and design references – of tradition and invention – the intention has been to create a subtle but atmospheric backdrop to the members room, one where visitors feel welcome, comfortable and inspired.
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We are very proud to have delivered this important project as part of the V&A’s FuturePlan. Through every step in the process, the V&A has supported and encouraged us to create a unique architectural response to the overall gallery space as well as the details which make up its new character. We look forward to the members being welcomed into the room for events, celebrations, refreshment or relaxation as part of their visit to the museum.
Andy Groarke, partner, Carmody Groarke