The Victoria and Albert Museum has been open in London since 1852 and now over 150 years later, the V&A has come to Scotland with the opening of a new building in Dundee. The modern architecture is a stark contrast to the traditional building in Kensington but is just another showcase of design, reflecting the entire purpose of the museum.
I visited the V&A in London last year and loved it because of its classy interiors and vast collection covering different topics including fashion, architecture and furniture, not to mention the corridors lined with exquisitely carved statues. Because of how wonderful the London museum is, I was really excited to visit the one in Dundee but it also meant that I had high expectations for it. That may have been a fault on my part but either way, I’m not convinced it really lived up to the hype that surrounded it during the build.
I’ve never been the one for very modern architecture but the building itself is gorgeous. Kengo Kuma, the architect, did amazing work with the geometric shapes creating such a contrast to the River Tay that flows by. I wondered if this meant that the museum was going to be dark on the inside because the exterior doesn’t appear to boast many large windows to let much light in. I was wrong to think this though because the large spaces were lit perfectly fine. However, the main exhibition room was dark and reminded me of a Hollister shop where I often accidentally trip over clothing racks. I understand that the spotlights are there to attract attention to the pieces in the collection but I think it went a bit far.
The items that were on display were very interesting. Fashion and jewellery were my favourite parts in the London museum, especially because they have a two-storey room filled to the brim with priceless jewels. As a result, I was hoping for a little more than a few dresses and a tiara, as beautiful as they were, on display in Scotland. My favourite was the wedding dress from Alexander McQueen’s ‘Widows of Culloden,’ collection. I’ve always preferred lace wedding dresses to satin or silk so the dress was right up my street. There is a timeless elegance to lace that I love whether it’s on a wedding dress or an everyday one.
I was also interested in the Mackintosh tea room. As he is such a prominent figure of Scottish design, I’m not surprised that some of his most famous work was included in the museum in such a prominent way. I was thinking about studying architecture for a while before settling on Music Technology and I like to think I have an appreciation for impressive and significant buildings or structures. I managed to get a question right on a quiz I played with my family at Christmas after reading about the Forth Rail Bridge when visiting the V&A in Dundee so I can definitely say I learned something.
Whilst the architecture is incredible and worth showing off, it appeared that less than half of the interior space is used for exhibitions. One of the two cafes was completely empty and made me question if the area could have been used to show off more of Scotland’s design history and the impact it has had on the present. It’s obvious that the Dundee museum is much smaller than the one in London but by using minimal space, it only heightened this fact in my eyes.
If I had more time at the V&A, I would have visited the Ocean Liners: Speed and Style exhibition. It’s still on until the end of February so I might go back and visit in the new year. I’m fascinated by boats, mainly cruises because they fit so much in a relatively small space. Not to mention the fact that I don’t understand how they float and don’t sink. Considering how small the main exhibition is, I wonder if the special exhibition space makes the museum feel much larger.
I think if you’re visiting Dundee, the Victoria and Albert Museum should be on your list. Whilst it’s not necessarily that big, it’s a new ‘must-do’ thing in Scotland. It’s close to the city centre and less than a minutes walk from the train station. You won’t spend a whole day there but it’s nice to spend an hour or two in learning about Scotland’s design history, admiring the architecture and looking out across the River Tay.