About the ProjectFirst opened in 1873, the Cast Courts are among the most popular spaces in the V&A and are the only galleries in the museum that retain their original function. They were built to house some of the V&A's largest and most loved objects, such as the 5.5 metre high cast of Michelangelo's David and a plaster cast of Trajan's Column, displayed in two pieces which if put together would reach 35.6 metres high.
Originally designed by General Henry Scott, the Cast Courts are arranged as two double-height, day-lit courts. Over their long history, the spaces have been subject to extensive reorganisation and redecoration, concealing much of the original fabric and design intent. Renovation is currently taking place in one of the courts (Gallery 46b) which will reinstate aspects of the original Victorian decoration and reveal the original tiled floor.
A full replacement of the glazed roofing will be undertaken, allowing better light control, along with the complete restoration of the copper light windows to the upper gallery. Areas of damage to the building fabric will be also be repaired, consolidating structures of unique historical importance. The casts themselves will be redisplayed over the next few years, to allow for clearer and more comfortable viewing. Metaphor Design and Architecture were appointed in 2011 to design the renovation and display of the Courts.
Moira Gemmill, V&A's Director of Projects, Design and Estate:
'Collecting replicas of famous sculptures and monuments was a 19th-century phenomenon and the real challenge in refurbishing this Cast Court is to bring it up to the standards of the 21st Century while retaining its Victorian charm.’
The project has provided V&A sculpture curators and conservators with the opportunity to further research the casts both from a historical and technical point of view. The results of their findings has driven cleaning and restoration work in preparation for the object’s display, and will inform their interpretation in the newly arranged galleries.
Gallery 46b is now closed to the public, and will re-open in winter 2014. Until then, the works in Gallery 46b can be viewed from the upper Gallery known as Gallery 111 (Gilbert Bayes Gallery).
This development is part of FuturePlan
FuturePlan is transforming the V&A by revitalising visitor facilities and redisplaying the collections. Using the best architects and designers, we are bringing the V&A into the 21st century and restoring modern design and innovation to the heart of the museum.