Today, journalists from far and wide have travelled to Dundee to see Scotland’s first dedicated design museum open its doors. In the city of Patrick Geddes and Charles Macintosh; the birthplace of the Beano; a centre for life sciences; and a world leader for the videogames industry; V&A Dundee has found a natural home.
This UNESCO design city has an impressive design heritage, shaped by modern enterprise and creative ambition. Now, Kengo Kuma’s amphibious, semi-nautical V&A Dundee – cutting through the water of the River Tay like the prow of a boat – is reconnecting the city’s urban core with its historic waterfront. This is a city with a rich global history -–a major 19th-century seaport constructing immense ships to bring jute from Calcutta and dispatching Scott to explore the Antarctic. V&A Dundee stands proudly on the quayside next to RRS Discovery, Captain Scott’s celebrated vessel, uniting Dundee’s past with a much more confident future, after a difficult few decades.
‘By any standards the V&A is a dazzling building’, wrote The Times. And this dramatic structure from Japan’s leading architect – inspired by the sublime geology of Scotland’s northern coastline – utilised ground-breaking engineering, construction and design to emerge on the Tay’s riverbanks. With strict embargos in place until today, images of the stunning interiors are now released for the first time. I’m sure you’ll agree that it was worth the wait.
A large-scale commission from Turner Prize-nominated artist Ciara Phillips is just one of the visual delights to greet museum visitors. Drawing on the V&A’s remarkable collections of Scottish design, this site-specific installation investigates the processes that underpin objects across the museum. The resulting mural is a feast of colour, incorporating digital printing and ceramic glazing techniques. But the building is only the beginning.
This cultural milestone for Dundee is also a landmark moment in the history of the V&A, and an important opportunity for the UK to show the world how design can enrich lives.
At the V&A, we think we have a responsibility as a national museum to be truly national, and we work hard to reach the widest possible audience. Education sits at the heart of this mission, and with V&A Dundee, we’re proudly expanding this ambition. Our drive to inspire the next creative generation now runs through the veins of our museums in London and Dundee. V&A Dundee’s educational outreach has been connecting with communities across Scotland long before its opening; the programme reached a staggering estimate of 100,000 people by the end of March.
And as the centrepiece of an ambitious £1 billion transformation of Dundee’s waterfront – that’s been making a significant cultural, economic and social contribution to the area even before its opening – V&A Dundee is helping to reshape the city’s future as a hub of the UK creative industries, drawing in visitors, business and investment.
Of course, this isn’t just a special moment for Dundee and the V&A. V&A Dundee has been building excitement the world over. This new international landmark has taken its rightful place among the world’s most talked about museums. Picked as one of the ‘design-savvy cities to watch in 2018’ and ranked alongside Madagascar and the Faroe Islands as ‘Scotland’s Coolest City’, Dundee has been making global headlines. So much of that is down to the embedded value of the V&A brand – itself the product of all the innovation and hard work which takes place in South Kensington. In Dundee, we have a truly international museum, firmly rooted in local relevance, and this is shared right across the V&A’s family of museums and galleries.
V&A Dundee is an integral member of our growing family – from South Kensington to Stratford to Shenzhen in China – each drawing on the V&A’s world-class collections, curatorial expertise and exhibitions. Scotland’s first design museum tells a largely-untold story: the global influence of Scottish design and then Scotland’s influence on the world. The V&A’s objects – so expertly curated by Joanna Norman and her team – are vital to this story. Our curators combed the stores, unearthing some 12,000 objects with a Scottish connection. And V&A Dundee now proudly displays 200 of these in the magnificent new Scottish Design Galleries.
So, it’s with all this in mind, that I can say how delighted we are to be part of V&A Dundee and the truly unique partnership behind this museum – an innovative new model between the V&A, the Universities of Dundee and Abertay, Dundee City Council, and Scottish Enterprise. From a conversation that began with one of my predecessors Mark Jones – through the V&A’s close relationship with the University of Dundee – a decade later, after many years of ingenuity and imagination, our spectacular waterfront museum finally opens its doors.
The V&A is proud to assist in telling this story of exchange and interaction – championing the power of design and supporting culture-led regeneration. Museums can and do make a difference. Today, V&A Dundee shows how these repositories of the past are also change-makers, centres of innovation and insight.