Friday, 18 December 2009

V&A Medieval and Renaissance Galleries

The newly refurbished Medieval and Renaissance Galleries have just opened at the V&A Museum in South Kensington. The architects were MUMA (McInnes Usher McKnight), a young architecture practice based in London. The refurbishment has taken 7 years to complete and includes the entire south east wing of the museum as well as a new day-lit gallery in the space between 2 buildings. I visited the galleries briefly on Tuesday and hope to return to spend some more time photographing the new alterations on Monday. Below are a few snaps I took on my first visit:

The New Central Staircase

The Bonita Trust Study Area

Staircase to the New Day-lit Gallery

New Glass Roof


The refurbishment of the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries is just one part of the V&A's larger Future Plan. The aim of Future Plan is to bring the V&A into the 21st century, improving facilities, such as the cafe which was also refurbished by MUMA and completed in 2006, galleries, including Ceramics (Stanton Williams) and Jewellery (Eva Jiricna Architects Ltd), and also new contemporary exhibition space by Block Architecture. The Medieval and Renaissance Galleries form a large part of this plan and have improved circulation throughout the building by introducing a central staircase and lift which for the first time links all 6 levels of the museum. I think my favourite part of the refurbishment is the new day-lit gallery which uses the previously wasted space between 2 buildings. A glass roof has been added to make the space internal but the history of the space is very clear and easily read. The curved wall of the adjacent gallery has been used to create a seating space to admire the large scale pieces on display. These include a facade of a building which survived the Great Fire of London and a spiral staircase.

I think the refurbishment is succesful and the new displays are beautifully designed (also my MUMA), the lighting scheme is particularly interesting and lighting has been used throughout the galleries to create different atmospheres. The new alterations are obvious and do not try to blend in with the existing building or to compete with it. The subtle use of modern materials; including polished concrete, glass and steel, has created a contemporary space which complements the existing architecture.

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