London’s world-renowned Victoria & Albert Museum has made art even more accessible to the masses with the completion of the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter. Set to open today, this beautiful and unique civic space includes the “first outdoor porcelain courtyard in the world” as well as a new subterranean exhibition hall. Designed by AL_A, this alternative museum entrance is the V&A’s largest architectural intervention in over a century.
Created over the course of six years, the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter transformed the museum’s former boiler house yard into a new arts destination. The design includes the underground Sainsbury Gallery, a flexible 1,100-square-meter column-free exhibition gallery; the Sackler Courtyard, the world’s first porcelain public courtyard; the Blavatnik Hall, a new entrance into the V&A from Exhibition Road; and the Aston Webb Screen, a newly created colonnade with 11 openings. The £54.5 million project is part of the museum’s FuturePlan scheme that has updated two thirds of the V&A’s public spaces in the past 15 years.
The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter is envisioned as bridge between the city and the museum, and a reflection of the founding mission to democratize access to culture and education. “The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter reframes the relationship between street and Museum, breaking down the barrier between the two,” says a press release. “We have created a less formal, more public place that is as much of the street as it is of the Museum, attracting and welcoming in new audiences, and making ideas of accessibility and democracy very explicit.”
The Sackler Courtyard is paved with 11,000 handmade porcelain tiles produced after two years of research and development. This new public space also hosts a cafe with furniture designed by AL_A and reveals architecturally significant facades and details never seen before by the public, such as the sgraffito decoration on the side of the Henry Cole Wing. Over 22,000 cubic meters of earth were removed from the site, 99% of which was recycled. In celebration of the project’s opening, the V&A is hosting REVEAL, a free, week-long festival from June 30 to July 7.
Images © Hufton + Crow