Cliffhanger in Dundee
Scotland’s rich design tradition is celebrated in a dramatic new museum in the eastern riverside city.
In characteristically damp Scottish weather, the new V&A Dundee looks from a distance like a blackened hulk beached on a riverbank or, more romantically, an ark awaiting the great flood. In fact, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma had the cliffs of Scotland’s northeast coast in mind when he designed the hotly anticipated first outpost of London’s celebrated Victoria and Albert Museum – and Scotland’s first design museum.
His original design positioned almost the entire building in the River Tay, and though this had to be scaled back to a prow-like 13 metres, the effect is no less dramatic.
The museum is part of a £1-billion revamp of Dundee’s dockyard and waterfront precinct, positioning the
city of 150,000, about an hour’s train ride north of Edinburgh, on the itineraries of design-focused travellers.
The opening exhibition, Ocean
Liners: Speed and Style, reimagines the golden age of ocean travel and celebrates the city’s shipbuilding tradition. Docked permanently beside the museum is the Dundee-built RRS Discovery, its three masts in vertical contrast to Kuma’s
2,500 horizontal precast panels.
But it’s the singular creation of one of Scotland’s favourite designers, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, that’s the sentimental favourite. After spending almost 50 years in storage, Mackintosh’s famous Oak Room has been given new life in a project overseen by V&A Dundee’s director Philip Long. Its 850 pieces have been restored and reassembled to form the centrepiece of the museum’s Scottish Design Galleries.
Designed in 1907 at the height of Mackintosh’s career, the 13-metre double-height room is regarded as a “lost” masterpiece. “This is one of Mackintosh’s great works,” says Long, “a work that had effectively been lost and is now found in a new museum by a great Japanese architect who was influenced by Mackintosh as a young man – just as Mackintosh himself was influenced by Japanese design.”
Following the destruction of the Mackintosh-designed Glasgow School of Art by fire in 2014 and again in June, the Oak Room has become a powerful tribute to Scotland’s favourite son, and reason alone to visit Dundee. 1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee, vam.ac.uk
Cheesefest + Ferment lives up to its name, with guest cheesemakers and brewers, booze and cheese tastings, demos and more. It runs from 27-28 October at Rymill Park, Adelaide. Turn to page 82 for our feature on festival director Kris Lloyd. cheesefest.com.au
V&A Dundee. Right: View over the River Tay from the museum.