Week 7 | The Building Works: 22.02.10

February 23, 2010

The guy is over sixty yet he announced he was stepping down as an MP at the next election via twitter.

Old King Cole

Remember we told you about the inspiring cityscape we can see out of our studio windows…? You know, the view we have over Exhibition Road and the yonder snow-covered rooftop of the Science Museum. Well, now it’s all gone! The windows through which we spotted the prancing builders last week have been blocked up. 

It might be an act of revenge to teach us a lesson for the scurrilous remarks we made about builders in our Week 6 blog. Everyday this week, that coldblooded builders’ mate, the vengeful scaffolder, has been fastening, fixing and screwing his skeletal construction to the craggy façade of the Henry Cole Wing. 

Of course, there are other whispering campaigns circulating the staff canteen. As one rumour has it, the V&A found a few pennies down the back of the couch and decided to give the Henry Cole Wing a facial. We have been reading up about the old guy and his legacy has certainly earned him a spring clean. 

‘Old King Cole’, as Sir Henry was called in the press, died in 1882. He introduced the world’s first Christmas card, he might have designed the famous Penny Black postage stamp, he was in charge of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Crystal Palace, and he was instrumental in using the surplus cash raised by the Great Exhibition to found the V&A Museum, becoming its first director from 1857 to 1873. 

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were his BFFs, and under his pseudonym, Felix Summerly, he wrote a number of children’s books, including every child’s favourite bedtime story ‘A hand-book for the architecture, sculpture, tombs, and decorations of Westminster Abbey’.

Building Work, Work, Work

The scaffolding on Henry’s wing looks set to be taken down just as our residency comes to an end. That means we will have to put with the wintery shadows well into spring. Nevertheless, they can’t stop us from looking on the metaphorical bright side. The clouds in the sky that we can no longer see through the window still have their proverbial silver lining…

As most office workers can attest, there’s nothing quite like a builder or a window cleaner peering in through the glass to keep the computer screen focused on salient work websites. Our own home-working research points to the link between productivity and supervision. Ergo, the scaffolder’s invigilation could not have come at a better time, as we have plenty of work to be getting on with ourselves.

The first instalment of our schools workshop is rapidly approaching, and on Tuesday (23 February) we have our radio interview on ABC Australia, followed by the V&A Connects talk we are putting on with RIBA: http://www.vam.ac.uk/activ_events/events/va-connects/index.html.  

In advance of the latter presentation, the V&A website is promising “an evening of inspiration, networking and discussion about design, architecture, fashion, media and other creative industries”. To live up to that billing, we have been doing a supermarket sweep of the V&A stores in the basement with a big plastic trolley and Leanne, our very own version of Dale Winton. We will tell you what interesting tit-bits we whipped off the shelves next week.

A high court judge and a former judge of the museum of the year award came to our open studio on Friday, high society indeed. Alas, our lofty guests expressed more of an interest in our architectural work than our petition to protect our view of the Science Museum, so it looks like we’re stuck with the scaffolding for now. 

The email we received about the building works did contain one curious revelation:

“Please note that access to the moat and the 1st and 3rd floor balconies will be restricted during this period…”

The V&A has a moat! Why the hell does the V&A have a moat? In case the dinosaurs escape from the Natural History Museum perhaps. No, that would be ridiculous. As architecture students, we were taught that only castles and the homes of Conservative MPs have a moat… 


Talking of MPs, the Labour politician, Derek Wyatt, visited the studio this week. Besides being an all around nice guy and MP for some place in Kent, Derek has a BA in Art and Architecture, he won the New Statesman award for being the politician with the best website  (which receives 70,000 hits a week), he’s created an app that enables constituents to pry into every aspect of their MP’s lives, he’s on more social networking websites than Stephen Fry and he spent his expenses on a pork pie. 

The guy is over sixty yet he announced he was stepping down as an MP at the next election via twitter. aberrant should get him in as a technology consultant when he gets off the Westminster merry-go-round. 

Since we had the DCFS visit us last week and Derek Wyatt this week, I wonder which politicos will be dropping by the studio next week. Dave and Gordon and that guy from the Lib Dems are more than welcome to visit the studio in the build up to the general election – the public open days are posted on the V&A website.

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