Architectural Vision for V&A East Storehouse

August 16, 2021

The proposed sale of Blythe House, the home to a large proportion of the V&A Collection, presented an extraordinary opportunity to reinvent the idea of a museum store with the creation of V&A East Storehouse at Here East. Located on the north west side of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park near Hackney Wick and a 10-minute walk from the V&A East Museum, the Here East campus has proved a huge success and now boasts UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture and the University of Staffordshire Digital Institute as tenants. It is also home to BT Sport, Matches Fashion and the studio of celebrated choreographer Wayne McGregor. 

In May 2018 Diller, Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), supported by UK practice, Austin Smith Lord, submitted the winning entry to the architectural competition for V&A East Storehouse. Most famous for their transformation of a redundant Manhattan railway line into the High Line, DS+R have completed several cultural buildings, from the Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles to The Shed in New York, but the Storehouse will be their first UK building. With their ingenious concept DS+R have turned the idea of museum storage inside out.

V&A East Storehouse occupies part of Here East, the reimagined broadcast centre for the Olympic Games located on the north west side of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park near Hackney Wick. A 10-minute walk from the V&A East Museum, the Here East campus has proved a huge success and now boasts UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture and the University of Staffordshire Digital Institute as tenants. It is also home to the likes of BT Sport, Matches Fashion and the studio of celebrated choreographer Wayne McGregor. 

Exterior of V&A East Storehouse. @ Victoria and Albert Museum

Our architectural brief set out a distinct and complex challenge: to design a building to house a large proportion of the V&A’s collection and archives and create a place, which provides a unique experience for our visitors and staff. Importantly, we wanted the concept to go beyond simple open storage. DS+R met this challenge, excavating the centre of the Storehouse to create a majestic public space, the Collection Hall, which will bring visitors into the heart of the V&A’s collection to view object displays, galleries, and to see behind-the-scenes activity. DS+R were inspired by the visual language of the store and have taken as inspiration the methods of storage and transportation that are used by the museum every day. 

Where the racks of stored collections intersect with the cut out of the main Collections Hall, DS+R have created ‘hacked ends’. ‘Hacked ends’ are cantilevered shelves which will project into the public space and will display a range of objects from across the collection over three levels at the heart of the Storehouse. The object groupings will change over time as objects are sent on loan, conserved or photographed, but the ‘hacked ends’ have been designed so that they are flexible and can be used to display a variety of objects and stories over time.

Internal render view of the central collection hall in V&A East Storehouse, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, 2021

The self-guided visitor route through the V&A East Storehouse provides glimpses into conservation studios and study rooms and is punctuated by some of the largest and most spectacular objects in the V&A collection. Large object installations will include the display of the Kaufmann Office designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Edgar J. Kaufmann’s Pittsburgh department store and a 15th century marquetry ceiling from the now destroyed Torrijos Palace near Toledo in Spain. V&A East Storehouse will showcase not only the research and expertise which goes into managing a world class collection, but also the dynamism and fluidity of museum life, weaving together research spaces and reading rooms with galleries and creative studios to create one immersive and coherent public building for the 21st century.

Internal render view of V&A East Storehouse, with Altamira Palace ceiling installed. © Diller Scofidio + Renfro, 2018

Alongside the incredible opportunity to encounter the V&A’s collections is a suite of new welcome and creative spaces. The welcome space will orientate our visitors, creating a moment of pause and giving the opportunity to find out what’s on. Creative studios and workshop spaces facing the street will provide new facilities for schools, local residents, and creative practitioners in the Olympic Boroughs and beyond. The studios and workshops programme will change daily and we are currently devising our programmes with members of the local community and art and design specialists. We envisage a dynamic and lively space where people of all ages, abilities and interests can try out different creative processes, from screen printing and sewing to jewellery making, for example, explore objects from the collection or attend talks and screenings.   

Right now, on site, we are installing the main feature stair, completing the internal partitions and installing the storage systems and building services which will closely control the environment within the Storehouse to make it suitable for the care and preservation of V&A objects. The main building works will complete in early 2022. In summer 2022, following a period of environmental stabilisation and the installation of our large, complex objects, we will begin installing our collection. After all 260,000 objects, 915 archives and 350,000 library books have been expertly relocated by our Collection Move team, we will install the café, wayfinding system, and objects in the ‘hacked ends’ before the V&A East Storehouse opens to the public in 2024.

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