My role has been to check the practical elements of the design as the project evolved and to ensure, as far as possible, that there are no surprises further along in the timetable which might delay progress.
The Sackler Centre will be used by a wide range of people of all ages throughout the day. Some will visit professionally, others in their leisure time. Their experience of their visit to the V&A will be coloured by how well the Centre works in practice. For example, good lockers and lunch arrangements that work well for a whole class are important on school trips; families with young children need easy access to baby-changing facilities. Students and professionals attending a conference need crisp visual presentations. Everyone needs clear routes around the Centre and it must feel welcoming and accessible.
We built a prototype locker to test how it would work with school groups of different ages. We made a model of the lunchroom to see how it would cope with 200 pupils at a time. We tested the visual projection screen to make sure that the image was of a high quality, no matter where you were seated. We tried out the auditorium seats with different people. We mocked-up the direction signs. We looked at the likely flow of people around the rooms and the sloped floor of the exhibition area to make sure it works for wheelchair users. We also thought about where to serve coffee during a break for events in the Seminar Rooms and Auditorium. We kicked samples of the door material for our storage cupboards to see if they would break in use - they survived.
As the project moves into the building phase, we can be sure that the Sackler Centre will be highly functional and easy to use, reflecting the V&A's focus on high quality design.