The exterior of V&A Dundee

Architectural story of V&A Dundee told in new display 

Free-to-use images

The story of the architecture and construction of V&A Dundee will be told in a new, free display, which opens to the public tomorrow (Saturday 16 September) to mark the museum’s fifth birthday.


Stories from the Building explores Kengo Kuma’s design from the photograph of the Scottish cliffs which inspired his first sketch, the models created for the international architectural competition in 2010, the beginning of construction from 2015, and to the completion in 2018 of Scotland’s design museum.


The permanent display, which will be in the Locke Hall on the ground floor of V&A Dundee, includes concept sketches, the original competition model, photography of the engineering and construction, and samples of building materials including steel bars which reinforce the museum’s curving concrete shell and sun pipes which bring natural light in to save energy.


Interviews with the architects, project managers and engineers are accompanied by a new animation showing the development of the museum’s design and the complexity of its engineering and construction. The display also has hands-on elements, including exhibits that visitors can touch and handle, and building and drawing activities inspired by the architecture.


Meredith More, Curator at V&A Dundee, said: “Kengo Kuma’s architecture seeks harmony with nature, and he’s said that V&A Dundee could have only been created in this specific location on the River Tay.


“We wanted to celebrate the collaboration between all the specialists from different fields who worked on the building. Design is a process that involves constant adaptation, and you can really see this in the way Kuma and the many contractors worked together to realise the final design for the building.


“Many visitors are fascinated by the museum’s design and ask to find out more, which is why we’ve created this new, free display to tell the stories of one of the most remarkable pieces of architecture in Scotland.”


Maurizio Mucciola, Project Architect at Architects, said: “We always wanted the design to reconnect the centre of Dundee with the river, as historically this was the position of the city’s docks and a great site of trade and industry. The structure and shape of V&A Dundee nods both to the cliffs of Scotland and to Japanese torii gates – wooden structures which connect a city to the sacred space of a shrine.


“The architecture we designed has this beautiful connection with nature, with the curving walls and the irregular concrete panels casting different patterns of shadows as the sun moves around the museum. We also wanted to connect V&A Dundee’s interior to the beauty of the river and to bring in a lot of natural light, creating a calm and welcoming space.”


John Tavendale, former Turner & Townsend Project Manager for the construction of V&A Dundee, said: “Kengo Kuma’s ambitious design and the museum’s curving, twisting walls created huge challenges for the engineers and specialist building contractors. The building is a single, sculptural shell, with no movement joints or breaks. Together, the roof, walls and flooring make the building stable.


“I am incredibly proud to have been part of the team which created V&A Dundee, bringing to life the vision of Kuma. This new display will give visitors an in-depth insight into how we made this modern feat of engineering possible on the banks of the Tay.”


Stories from the Building also features a free immersive audio tour which takes visitors around the interior and exterior of the building, led by Assistant Curator James Wylie and including John Tavendale, Martin Richardson and Kengo Kuma himself. The tour takes visitors to key architectural stops around the building, explaining little-known facts about the museum and showing immersive photography of construction on the Smartify app.


V&A Dundee opened on 15 September 2018. The museum was designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates, with project management from Turner & Townsend, Arup leading the engineering, and BAM Construct UK managing construction.


The birthday will be celebrated tomorrow (Saturday 16 September) with free music performances including Be Charlotte and Andrew Wasylyk, free access to the blockbuster Tartan exhibition, street food on the plaza, family activities, and free museum tours.


The fifth birthday celebrations run from 10am to 10pm on Saturday 16 September. For more information, please visit


Stories from the Building was supported by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which was awarded by Dundee City Council. The audio tour was made possible by support from Art Fund.