UCL News


New V&A gallery

24 October 2006

Two lecturers from the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, who work together as Block Architecture, have been appointed to deliver a new contemporary exhibition space at the V&A Museum.

Block architects Graeme Williamson and Zoe Smith, who both teach on the Bartlett's Diploma Unit 23, were invited to pitch by the V&A together with three other firms.

The challenging brief was for the creation of a dedicated space to house the V&A contemporary programme: "It was challenging in an architectural, structural, environmental and functional sense and required an intelligent response to the Aston Webb interior on the outside, along with a program that suggested an adaptable and neutral envelop for expression. The need for a column-free environment coupled with the issue of span depth on a 15m space presented structural challenges", explains Graeme Williamson. 

However, the challenges suit the way Block Architecture work, as Zoe Williamson explains: "Our approach to generating a solution has always been project-specific. Within the rigorous structure of the brief we found areas of looseness or play that we worked on to generate our approach. The entrance was particularly important to us, allowing for a shift in perception from the V&A proper to the Contemporary exhibitions. It also started to be seen as an aperture through which the collections were viewed, giving the contemporary exhibitions a context. We were also struck by the possibility of using the central lantern light as an opportunity for structural intervention in view of the span required. The roof is supported by a 'rain' of monofilament fibres carrying the centre-point in the span and top-lit from the lantern light. This runs the length of the roof space and is visible from the first floor galleries. The shell needed to be ultra lightweight due to the listed nature of the building and our proposal is clad in panels clad in black carbon fibre sheeting - a product usually used in aircraft and Formula 1 car manufacture."

Block Architecture were formed in 1998 and have worked on a range of commercial, residential and arts-based commissions in London, Tokyo, New York and Stockholm. Williamson is enthusiastic about the new project: "We are obviously delighted to receive the commission. It gives our office an opportunity to continue to develop our interest in architecture's more phenomenological or experiential qualities, with a client who empathises with, and supports that approach."

To find out more about Block Architecture, use the link below.

Image: Visualisation of the new gallery