Liz O’rourke marvels at the treasures of Dundee’s V&A museum
Liz O’rourke marvels at the treasures of Dundee’s magnificent new V&A museum.
TRAVEL into Dundee and the first thing you’ll notice is the fantastic new V&A building standing proudly by the Tay. It was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who took his inspiration from the cliffs further up the coast near Arbroath.
Inspired, too, by Dundee’s maritime history, the spectacular building has been likened to a galleon and a ship’s sail. Whatever you think, there’s no denying it’s an impressive structure that stands alongside Captain Scott’s boat, RRS Discovery.
Kengo Kuma has used sustainable products wherever possible. He set out to bring nature and architecture together to create “a living-room for the city”.
Contrasting with the dark exterior, the bright wooden interior is spacious and welcoming. Little windows and arches offer views across the Tay, fulfilling the promise to link the building with its surroundings.
Upstairs are the exhibition galleries. For many, the first stop will be “Ocean Liners: Speed and Style”, which runs until February 24.
This exhibition recalls a time when travelling first class on a liner was a grand experience. From the Christian Dior travelling suit worn by Marlene Dietrich to the Duke of Windsor’s Goyard luggage, there is much to admire as you pass through the decades.
Central to one section is a ship’s swimming pool in which mannequins in vintage swimwear dive and swim. Clever photography gives you the feeling of being on deck while at sea.
Further on, you’ll be dazzled by the tiara which survived the loss of the
Lusitania, and the wooden door panel from the Titanic found floating in the Atlantic. It is the largest surviving fragment from the ship.
Leaving the exhibition, the Scottish Design Galleries beckon. These permanent galleries showcase the best of Scottish design, ranging from silk Paisley shawls to Hunter wellington boots, Lemmings computer games and a copy of the “Beano”.
Undoubtedly the jewel in the crown is Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room, which has been rebuilt from hundreds of pieces previously stored by Glasgow City Council.
They took possession of the materials when what was Miss Cranston’s Ingram Street Tea Rooms was converted into a hotel.
Each piece was numbered and coded, then languished in a basement until a large enough space beckoned in the V&A Dundee.
Sympathetic restoration has seen the wood stripped back to its original dark varnish, and the stained glass repaired by experts.
Step inside and one can almost hear the murmur of voices, the tinkle of spoons against fine china and the crackle of the fire on a damp winter’s day.
Kengo Kuma has spoken of his pride in having this room in his creation.
“There is an aesthetic of simplicity and transparency that Mackintosh and Japanese culture have in common. His work taught me that transparency could be achieved in architecture using natural materials.
“In the Oak Room, people will feel his sensibility and respect for nature, and hopefully connect it with our design for V&A Dundee.”
This sums up the beauty of the V&A Dundee. Modern meets old; innovative stands alongside classic; good design and inspiring architecture link them all. ■
The V&A Dundee has a picturesque setting.
Don’t miss the “Ocean Liners: Speed and Style” exhibition.