V&A museum dam extends Dundee into River Tay

DUNDEE’S V&A museum has reached its first major milestone with the construction of a huge dam which has extended the city out into the River Tay.
Work begins on the V&A dam. Picture: V&A Dundee/FacebookWork begins on the V&A dam. Picture: V&A Dundee/Facebook
Work begins on the V&A dam. Picture: V&A Dundee/Facebook

The temporary watertight enclosure, which has been built in under three months, gives the first sign of the scale of the £80 million project, which is due to be unveiled in the summer of 2018.

The creation of the “cofferdam”, built to accommodate construction of part of the museum which will protrude over the river, has seen water pumped out to create a dry working environment for the UK’s only design museum outside London.

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The dam, which can be clearly seen from the Tay Road Bridge and the city’s 1901 polar research vessel Discovery, was completed ahead of a summer embargo on works on the river to avoid any impact on the seal breeding season.

The new dam from a distance on the Tay Bridge. Picture: ContributedThe new dam from a distance on the Tay Bridge. Picture: Contributed
The new dam from a distance on the Tay Bridge. Picture: Contributed

Three huge cranes will be on site by the end of August when the city’s skyline will begin to change as the internal concrete walls of the museum begin to rise up.

Work on the external walls will begin the following month and the building is expected to gradually take shape throughout next year.

Project director Philip Long, who led journalists on the first guided tour around the construction site, said he was “thrilled” at the progress made since work finally got underway at the beginning of March - nearly eight years after the project was announced.

He said: “V&A Dundee actually comprises two separate buildings, which will be joined at the first-floor level.

“One of the buildings will stretch out into the river, which is a complex engineering project, which involves the creation of a foundation.

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“We have created a dam to give us the space to work. It needed to be done by the beginning of June, as there couldn’t be any invasive works done in the Tay during the seal pup season.

“All of the steelwork on the dam will be removed, but what it is doing at the moment is stopping the Tay getting onto this part of the construction site.

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“Once the dam was complete, all the water pumped out and the silt excavated down to the bedrock, we’ve been able to compact in rock for the platform for the part of the building that will come out into the Tay. It will lean out around 30 metres at its furthest point. It’s hugely exciting to get to this point.”

Dundee’s V&A museum - which has been designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma - has dogged by controversy over delays and a ballooning budget, which soared from £45 million to £80 million in January of this year.

Doug Keillor, regional director of Bam Construction, which is building the museum, who also spoke to journalists at the construction site, said: “The biggest challenge is the shape of the V&A museum here, but we knew what we were getting into and we believe we have got the right methods of work and the right team in place to construct it within the timescale.

“The shell of the building is not due to be handed over until the end of 2017. The roof is not due to go on until the beginning of that year.

“The actual walls will take this year and all of next year to construct up to the roof height. It’s not a quick build.

“We built the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, which was a pretty spectacular structure, albeit it was done in steel rather than concrete, and we’ve worked on other complicated structures before. We’re definitely up to the challenge here and we’re looking forward to it.”

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Completion of the dam was announced just days after Dundee confirmed it was pressing ahead with a bid to become European capital of culture in 2023, despite losing out to Hull for a bid to claim the UK crown in 2017.

The project is the centrepiece of a £1 billion regeneration of Dundee’s waterfront, with a neighbouring side currently being turned into a new public park and events space, in front of the historic Caird Hall.