21st Century : Places : The V&A Spiral
Hailed as innovative and exceptional by English Heritage and the Royal Fine Art Commission, the Spiral will be an icon for London, and a true landmark building marking a watershed in British architecture. It will ensure Britain remains at the centre of the stage for innovation in architecture and design. Set in a vibrant historic setting and with a visionary form and purpose, the Spiral will be a lasting tribute to its architect, its funders and supporters, and to the vision which gave birth to the V&A itself.
The Spiral's architect, Daniel Libeskind, has been widely recognised as a genius of our times. Internationally high-profile for its dramatic shape and form, the stunning structure will lure many who would not normally want to come to a traditional museum - but who, once there, will be astonished and fascinated by what they find inside.
In addition, the Spiral will be an international hub to which makers, designers and the shapers of the future from around the world will be drawn to meet, debate and spark off each other. But the building is not just designed for the professionals of the artistic community. It is designed as a building of the people, where visitors will come to learn and to be inspired, and to share and offer views and opinions. It will be both a marketplace and a temple to modern art and design where people will come to learn the latest news, and to have their understanding deepened and views challenged or refreshed.
Contemporary and challenging by its form, the building itself will provide the perfect environment in which to absorb and appreciate the V&A's contemporary message. The Spiral will put visitors in the mood to be open-minded and creative when they get inside, helping to provide the impetus for the experiences within.
The visitor enters from street level on the ground floor, where they are presented with banner headline direction signs, as well as snapshot promotions of what is currently on display. Here they buy their tickets and can meet friends. The lower ground floor will also be an entrance to the Spiral, for visitors entering from the underground tunnel, or from the link with the other South Kensington museums. Here too will be the Spiral Shop.
Above the entrance, on the first floor, is the information cafe, where information points will give more detail about not only what is on offer in the Spiral, but also the V&A. Here, visitors can plot their own personal route through the Spiral, and beyond, through the entire V&A complex. The lower Spiral will hold a resource centre, where on-line facilities will offer public and students alike access to more detailed information on the V&A's collections and exhibitions, biographies of the artists, and more general information on styles, origins, influences and genres. This resource centre will open up the world of art and design to the visitor.
Continuing on the educational theme, on the tower floor will be an auditorium, where lectures and conferences will be held. The gallery spaces of the Spiral will be housed over four levels. The varied heights and sizes of these galleries will provide an exciting range of display space, from the very intimate to the monumental. The other levels will be similar to 'special features', with a small monograph space to feature young talent, a large theme and issue-based gallery and a more actively involving gallery linked to the level six workshops above.
Here artists and designers and other commentators will be available to hold conversations with visitors and enhance their enjoyment and understanding of the displays. This dialogue can be developed in the educational studios above on level six, where demonstrations and workshops will be held for interested members of the public, and schoolchildren too. It is intended that masterclasses will also be available for students, keen to develop their skills with some first hand, practical tuition from recognised leaders in their fields. Finally, on level seven, will be a cafe, offering dramatic views of the South Kensington, and beyond, the London skyline. Here visitors can take refreshments and consider and discuss what they have seen and experienced, on their upward journey through the Spiral.
The designs for the Spiral were developed by Daniel Libeskind, one of Europe's leading new architects, in close collaboration with British engineer, Cecil Balmond, senior director of engineering consultants Ove Arup and Partners
The structure is simple and elegant, yet revolutionary: the walls rise in a series of inclined planes to form a self-supporting spiral, providing a spectacular sculptural presence in the urban landscape. The walls of the Spiral overlap and interlock in a strong, robust manner that gives the structure its stability. The internal floors which span between these walls, are flat and column-free, and lend the interior spaces a serene, uncluttered quality. Light will filter through from glazed roofs into the interior of the building, highlighting the drama of the spiral walls as they are articulated through the Spiral. The inside of the Spiral will provide dramatic and unusual spaces which will challenge preconceptions about the designed environment.
Continuing a South Kensington tradition, the exterior of the Spiral will be clad in hand-crafted tiles, the colour carefully chosen to complement the Portland stone of the existing surrounding buildings of the V&A. Three shapes of tile will be used for the facade: based on fractal geometry, the exterior of the Spiral will form a glittering non-repeating pattern of great mathematical sophistication and beauty. Since its inception in the 1850s, the V&A has used contemporary craftspeople to fit-out and decorate its buildings - William Morris and Minton & Co. created rooms in the V&A in the nineteenth century, while more recently Danny Lane and Wendy Ramshaw have contributed substantial work to V&A refurbishments. The Spiral will continue this tradition, commissioning artworks to present the best of contemporary design.
The Architecture of Daniel Libeskind.
Three levels of interactive contemporary gallery space
A Learning Laboratory
The Information cafe
Level 7 cafe with views over London.
The V&A website