Christopher Bagot is a director of Softroom, an architecture and design practice based in central London.
I lead the team working on the Sackler Centre at the V&A and have worked with Caroline and the project team to consult on and develop the brief in a more extensive way than we usually do before detailed design. This has been a very productive approach.
Softroom have been working on the designs for the Sackler Centre since 2003. We've spent a good proportion of this time getting to know the way in which Learning and Interpretation currently operates at the V&A and learning about the future possibilities for these kinds of activities.
In developing our designs for the Sackler Centre we have been fortunate to be able to interact with end users in several ways. Working with the Sorrell Foundation, we took part in a series of visits and workshops with groups of schoolchildren from Birmingham, London and Newcastle at a very early stage in the design process. Acting as 'clients', the pupils drew upon the observations they made while visiting a series of cultural buildings to set out what some of their ambitions for the project would be. It was fascinating to see the amount of common sense and instinctive thinking they brought to design details that one might assume would be overlooked. They were harsh critics of lazy thinking and understood well the importance of function as well as stimulation.
Observing some of the V&A's current courses and events and talking with programme managers and tutors helped us to understand which decisions would have the biggest impact on the ultimate usability of a space. Often the failings of current facilities made it easy to highlight what their preferred solution would be. Also, the many discussions that have taken place between the architects and the Museum have been very useful in finalising the brief. In a museum with such wide-ranging educational services as the V&A, it has given us confidence to know that we are taking on board the sometimes contradictory requirements of as many different stakeholders as possible.