Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Cul­tural Cru­sader

What’s the V&A’S plan for east Lon­don

EVEN Boris John­son’s en­e­mies agree that he has a way with words. Among the lega­cies of his stint as Mayor of Lon­don is Olympi­copo­lis, his name for the cul­tural cam­pus that is emerg­ing on the site of the 2012 Olympic Games in Strat­ford, east Lon­don. Known of­fi­cially as the Strat­ford Wa­ter­front, this will pro­vide a dance theatre for Sadler’s Wells, a new cam­pus for the UAL’S Lon­don Col­lege of Fash­ion and a build­ing, V& A East, for our na­tional col­lec­tion of de­sign.

This will be a per­ma­nent re­minder of the Olympics, just as the 1851 Great Ex­hi­bi­tion be­queathed us the cul­tural quar­ter of South Kens­ing­ton, known when it was cre­ated as Al­ber­topo­lis, as Mr John­son has re­minded us.

Last week, on the fourth an­niver­sary of the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 2012 Games, new im­ages of Strat­ford Wa­ter­front were re­leased by the ar­chi­tect Al­lies and Mor­ri­son, which has led the team that has de­signed all the buildings. They look dis­ap­point­ingly bland, but per­haps it’s un­fair to judge from com­put­er­gen­er­ated im­ages.

Work will start on the site in 2018 and the buildings will be ready for oc­cu­pa­tion in 2020–21. The bud­get is £850 mil­lion, of which £141 mil­lion will come from the tax­payer, £180 mil­lion from pri­vate funds and the re­main­der from the Greater Lon­don Au­thor­ity and the prof­its of ad­ja­cent res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment.

The vaguest el­e­ment of the pro­posal is the plans for the V& A. The fullest state­ment so far of the mu­seum’s in­ten­tions was given by its deputy di­rec­tor and CEO, Tim Reeve (the di­rec­tor, Martin Roth, is as in­vis­i­ble in this as he is in most as­pects of the V& A’s pub­lic profile), in a re­sponse to a lec­ture on Olympi­copo­lis given last year at the V& A by Mr John­son—you can find it on

We are promised the ‘first in­sti­tu­tional home for new fields of de­sign in the dig­i­tal do­main’ and are re­minded that the V& A cur­rently can show only 10% of its col­lec­tions, so—hooray!— at least some of the 9,000sq m (96,875sq ft) of pub­lic gal­leries in the 18,000sq m (193,750sq ft) new build­ing will be de­voted to show­ing some of the hid­den 90%.

This is a mat­ter of un­spo­ken but press­ing con­cern for the V& A. In last year’s au­tumn Bud­get state­ment, the Gov­ern­ment, as ex­pected, an­nounced it would sell the mu­seum’s vast store in Blythe Road, west Lon­don. The £150 mil­lion pro­ceeds will be dis­trib­uted be­tween the V& A, the Bri­tish Mu­seum and the Science Mu­seum, which cur­rently share the build­ing.

Where does the V& A in­tend to move the col­lec­tions stored there and what will hap­pen to the (pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble) V& A Ar­chive of Art & De­sign and Cloth­work­ers’ Cen­tre for the Study and Con­ser­va­tion of Tex­tiles and Fash­ion, cur­rently housed at Blythe House? Will they all go to Olympi­copo­lis and, if so, how will they be ac­com­mo­dated?

The V& A has many other calls on its funds, not least V& A Dundee, ex­pected to open in 2018, a year late and for which the orig­i­nal bud­get of £45 mil­lion has rock­eted to £80 mil­lion. Never mind the dig­i­tal future—what about the phys­i­cal present?

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