Beneath the Façade: V&A East Museum

V&A East
August 20, 2021

For those that have visited the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park recently, you may have stopped to notice the progress being made on the East Bank site. The V&A East Museum has changed dramatically over the past few months. The three circulation cores have risen up and are now complete, and the steel frame that will hold the dramatic concrete façade is being installed piece by piece and will gradually reveal the intricate geometry of the building.  

V&A East Museum Exterior. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

If you look closely, you will be able to spot the visitor entrance on the Waterfront Square flanked by the triangular frame, as well as the staircase winding up the inside of the building which will provide views across the park.  

The steel frame and circulation form a key design concept for the building. Our architects, Dublin based O’Donnell + Tuomey (ODT), were particularly inspired by an X-ray photograph of a Cristóbal Balenciaga designed evening dress. ODT considered the Japanese concept of “Ma” within the design; exploring the void or volume of space which stands away from the body, framing the figure rather than restricting it. The steel frame and the façade does exactly that for the building by allowing the circulation space to flow between the floors, leading the visitor on a journey through the spaces and galleries to view our incredible collections.  

The installation of the steelwork on level 2 is now complete. Fabrication of the steel by Bourne Steel at their factory in Poole is ongoing with around 90% of the structure fabricated and almost 70% painted and ready for installation.  

V&A East Museum. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As work progresses on the remaining levels of the Museum through to 2022, the steel frame will continue to wrap further and further around the building, revealing more of the unique architecture and slowly bringing the building to life.  

About Bourne Group

Bourne Group Ltd is a highly regarded specialist in steel engineering and construction who have engineered and installed the unique architectural framework which is bringing to life the identity of the Museum in the iconic shape of Balenciaga’s evening dress. 

Bourne Steel Project Director, Russell Thomson said “We are delighted to complete the installation of the first phase of the V & A East Museum’s extremely complex geometrical steel framework. Seven star-shaped steel base nodes, weighing the equivalent of a Blue Whale, have been erected to support the floors and bespoke stair structures as well as high-spec steel decorative finishes shaped to match the elaborate external system. As creators of this emblematic framework, our team and the East Bank community are excited to see the emergence of such a beautiful structure. This project embraces the Bourne #NetZero strategy and fervently shows out commitment and responsibility to deliver sustainable steel solutions, minimise the environmental impact of our operations and to contribute to the global effort to combat climate change.” 

About the author

V&A East
August 20, 2021

Jasmine Farram is a Project Co-ordinator working across V&A Easts two sites, Storehouse and V&A East Museum. She has worked with the V&A since 2018, previously working in regional museums...

More from Jasmine Farram
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