V&A Boilerhouse Yard . London

photos: Victoria & Albert Museum . OMA 

The need for additional space for major exhibitions at the V&A suggests a strategy for future expansion and reorganization. Instead of filling courtyards with multi-story museum spaces, we propose liberating courtyards that are currently filled in with single level structures and utilizing the underground spaces beneath them. In this way, we provide new outdoor spaces for museum visitors, open up historic interiors, and create a new underground network of spaces – accessible from multiple points within the museum – for exhibitions, conservation, exhibition preparation, and storage. In addition, we propose a new East-West axis for the V&A that extends from Exhibition Road to the historic heart of the Museum in North and South Courts.   

To accomplish this, we propose three phases of expansion. The first involves the removal of existing buildings in Boilerhouse yard, and the creation of a large underground exhibition space extending from the Exhibition Road tunnel underneath the Western Range to the Madejski Garden. Access to this space is via an enlarged Exhibition Road tunnel entrance (which will include a museum shop), and via a new foyer in the Western Range that includes stairs to the exhibition level. This new foyer allows a direct view of the Madejski Garden and the oldest buildings in the eastern part of the museum. The Boilerhouse Yard serves as a flexible event space that connects the Madejski Garden to the city and the city to the heart of the museum. A second basement level beneath the exhibition space acts as a storage space and archive that is accessed from a service lift between the Western Range and Henry Cole Building.

Phase two of our proposal creates a new basement beneath the Madejski Garden that acts as a logistics hub for the museum, connecting existing underground back-of-house spaces and allowing the museum to grow without filling in courtyard spaces. In this phase a new underground connection is made to the north and south courts, completing the East-West axis of the museum above grade and below grade.

Phase three of our proposal removes the single level structures built in the School Court (north of the V&A café) and provides a new outdoor space for expansion of the café and alleviates congestion in the circulation loop around the ground floor galleries of the Madejski Garden. The existing museum conservation laboratories are moved to basement spaces below this courtyard, with open skylights and connection to the logistics hub beneath the Madejski Garden. In addition, greater integration of critical museum functions with the experience of museum visitors provides new educational opportunities for the V&A.

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