The V&A East project will create two interconnected sites in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London – a brand-new museum at Stratford Waterfront, and a new collection and research centre at Here East. Opening in 2023, V&A East will also host a unique and unprecedented partnership between the V&A and the Smithsonian Institution – the largest museum and research complex in the world.
V&A East represents an extraordinary opportunity to open-up the V&A's collection to all: as a vital sourcebook for infinite creative possibilities, as a place where young people can develop their creative skills and critical thinking, and as a platform to interrogate the ideas of our time through the designed world past and present. To ensure V&A East is rooted in its neighbourhood by the time it opens in 2023, we will continue to build relationships across the Olympic boroughs, and test ideas through conversation and collaborative creative projects. With local people helping shape its vision and programmes, V&A East will be a place for everyone representative of the cultures, communities and creativity of east London and beyond.
V&A East will provide a 360-degree view of the V&A, and illuminate the breadth of its work in ways that have not been realised before. Situated within the vibrant creative hub of east London and surrounded by four of the city's fastest-growing and most diverse boroughs, V&A East will be firmly rooted in its local neighbourhood and global in outlook.
At Here East, the new collection and research centre will reinvent the idea of a museum store. Visitors will be invited on behind-the-scenes journeys that reveal how and why objects are collected, how they are cared for, conserved, researched and displayed, and how they help make sense of our past, present and future. The centre will be a purpose-built home for 250,000 objects and an additional 917 archives spanning the breadth of our collections.
With a design led by New York-based practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro (supported by Austin-Smith:Lord), the collection and research centre will bring treasures out of storage and into public view for the first time in generations.
Planned from the inside-out, V&A East will be like stepping into an immersive cabinet of curiosities – a three-dimensional sampling of the eclectic collection of artefacts, programmed with diverse spaces for research, object study, workshops, and back-of-house functions.
A central public collection hall will turn the store inside out, with a rich array of objects on display for visitors to explore – from some of our smallest curiosities to the largest and most significant rooms and building fragments in the collection. Highlights will include Frank Lloyd Wright's 1930s office for Edgar J. Kaufmann – a unique and complete 20th-century plywood interior – and a 15th-century marquetry ceiling from the now-destroyed Altamira Palace near Toledo, Spain, which will be resurrected within the centre as a real architectural element above a new public space for displays and events.
Further spaces within the centre will host pop-up displays, workshops, performances and screenings alongside live encounters with the museum's work – from conservation and research to exhibition preparation. This new model builds on the continued success of The Clothworkers' Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion, which will be relocated to the new centre from Blythe House in west London, where a significant proportion of our collection is currently stored.
A dedicated viewing gallery will be created to showcase a changing display of rarely-seen large rolled objects from our extraordinary collection of theatre stage cloths, carpets, textiles, tapestries and paintings, including a 15-metre-wide theatrical backcloth designed by Natalia Goncharova for the 1926 Ballets Russes London production of Stravinsky’s Firebird.
Ten minutes' walk away at Stratford Waterfront, a five-storey museum designed by Dublin-based architects O'Donnell + Tuomey will provide a panoramic view of the designed world, and offer contemporary and cross-cultural perspectives through its diverse programming. Two galleries will showcase the vast range of our collections and a programme of major exhibitions will sit alongside new commissions, installations and interdisciplinary collaborations and projects.
The new museum is situated at the pivot-point of the East Bank project, a civic space at the crossroads between the public institutions and the residential on the Waterfront. We imagine the building as a freestanding pavilion, closely connected to its surroundings, its faceted form active on all sides, easily accessible from different directions.
A pioneering partnership with the Smithsonian Institution will deliver an innovative exhibition programme and a jointly-curated gallery at the Waterfront, bridging art, design, science and the humanities, and deploying the collections of two world-renowned cultural institutions to reflect issues and themes that resonate with contemporary society. The inaugural exhibition in 2023 will be a world-first co-production by the V&A and the Smithsonian, after which the Smithsonian will present one in four exhibitions at the museum.
By bringing together the world's largest museum, research, and education complex and the world's largest museum of art, design and performance, we believe we can unite the arts and sciences to tackle some of the most pressing issues of our day. Such a collaboration will create a new type of museum experience for east London and allow us to engage with new audiences in one of the most diverse and dynamic cities in the world.
The museum at Stratford Waterfront is part of the East Bank project, set up as part of the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to create a centre for culture, education, innovation and growth in the Olympic Park. V&A East will sit alongside UAL's London College of Fashion, a new, mid-scale venue for Sadler's Wells, and new BBC studios for performance, rehearsal and broadcast.
We're excited about the potential for V&A East to reflect and to benefit the local area – it would be fantastic if it can offer a variety of free cultural experiences for local young people, routes into training and employment, and a space which local people can feel a real sense of connection to and ownership over.
V&A East's two venues will be open to all, from families, schoolchildren, students, artists and designers, to tourists, visiting academics, cultural enthusiasts and curious passers-by. The partners are already active in east London with programmes of events, collaborations and activities developed together with local organisations and involving thousands of people from across the Olympic boroughs. We will continue to forge new partnerships as the project develops.