Briefly the sun is shining, and Spring has arrived as we mark 6 months of construction on site in Bethnal Green. The transformation of the 150-year-old museum (East London’s first, in fact…) is just starting to come to life after many months of hard work to remove old equipment and outdated services, carefully restore important heritage features and coordinate the many requirements necessary to bring the future spaces of Young V&A to life. From groundworks to graphic design, lift pits to lighting fixtures, many teams and individuals are responsible for designing, problem solving and sequencing all kinds of activity – so that all 6,500m2 of the building are ready for the next layer of our new galleries to be built on site, and ready to receive over 2000 objects from the V&A collection.
Continuing to reuse, rehome and recycle on site (and record what we are doing) is a really important part of making sure we are grounded in sustainable practice throughout this very busy phase of project delivery. And it’s a joint effort across the entire team. After donating display cases and storage furniture to other museums during the decant stage, we’re now starting to refurbish some of the historic wooden framed cases for the new galleries and review what existing furniture we can use for the new object spaces. Quinn, our builders, are keeping track of things leaving site – including our old lift, redundant structures and hundreds of metres of old cabling. Their site team have built office furniture from cupboards and used the old exhibition gallery walls from our Open Studio as protection for the delicate marble floor. Over 600 bricks have been salvaged for reuse, and old cupboards set aside for our gallery contractors Factory Settings to remake into beautiful things for the galleries. You can even see pieces of interpretation panels being used for joinery templating around site – we think these clouds for the new windows into the lower ground floor are pretty fitting.
Looking forward, we’ve invested in new electrical equipment that will help us to decarbonise our heating systems more easily in future years as well as give us more accurate, consistent data on energy usage. And on top of it all, we have had our expert roofing team working around Quinn to repoint and retile the roof with existing slate pieces to help future-proof the building against leaks.
It doesn’t stop with the interior of the building. If you walk by the museum now, you can see some changes underway on the forecourt. Though perhaps modest in size, the land around the building is so crucial in providing a welcoming and safe point of entry. Physical and mental well-being are at the heart of the YV&A experience, and nothing sustains us like green space and connection to nature.