JAPANESE architect Kengo Kuma helped lift the lid on Dundee’s new £80 million V&A museum today on his first visit to the vast construction site since work began on the project.
He led VIPs on the first official “walk-round” of the signature building at the heart of the city’s £1 billion waterfront regeneration project.
The full curved footprint of the building is now in place - just over 12 months since work finally got underway on the long-delayed attraction, the UK’s only design museum outside London.
Mr Kuma today declared that “great progress” was being made with the building, which is due for completion by the end of next year ahead of a planned public opening in June 2018.
He said the emerging structure of the museum, which is being built alongside Dundee’s famous polar exploration ship Discovery, was already strengthening the link between the city and its waterfront, where a new roads network and public park have also been created in the last year.
Previous work has included the construction of a huge dam which has extended the city out into the River Tay to accommodate the building, which will hang out over the river.
Dundee’s V&A, which was first announced in 2007, has been dogged by controversy over delays and a ballooning budget, which soared from £45 million to £80 million in January of last year, before a rescue package was agreed with the Scottish Government.
Fundraising efforts have been boosted dramatically in the last few weeks with ministers in Holyrood and Westminster confirming backing worth £20 million and £5 million respectively.
The project, which has already helped Dundee with official “City of Design” status from Unesco, was recently credited with the city being named as one of the top 10 hippest places to live in Britain.
Dundee is also representing the UK at a showcase of international design, which opened in Milan this week and is expected to attract half a million visitors.
Mr Kuma said: “We are delighted that our vision for the V&A Dundee building, which was originally inspired by the beautiful River Tay setting, is now starting to take physical shape.
“Great progress is being made with the construction and already you can see the connection between the waterfront and the city is so much stronger.
“I am very proud to be part of this exciting development for the city of Dundee and Scotland and to be creating a museum that will inspire people to visit from the UK and beyond.”
Lord Provost Bob Duncan, who was among the dignitaries on the tour, said: “People can see from the outside that something really special is beginning to take shape on this site.
“I am delighted that Kengo Kuma can see how much has been achieved here in the space of a year. We are delighted with the attention that this project is focusing on our city.
“The aspirational V&A Dundee project is designed to provide Dundee and Scotland with a world-class museum, which will help to provide jobs and wider economic benefits.”
Work will continue throughout this year to get the inner and outer curved walls of Dundee’s V&A up to roof height. Nest year, pre-cast panels will be installed to the exterior of the structure to give the museum its slatted, multi-layered appearance.
Malcolm Boyd, construction manager at BAM, which is leading the building project, said: “We are relishing meeting the unique technical and construction challenges and working with all our partners to deliver a building that will inspire Dundonians and attract worldwide recognition.”
Dundee’s V&A will feature a major celebration of Scotland’s art and design heritage, as well as host a rolling programme of major exhibitions.
Philip Long, the director of the museum, said: “V&A Dundee will be Scotland’s first museum dedicated to design, telling the inspirational story of Scotland’s design heritage and bringing the most important international exhibitions from the V&A to Scotland.
“The building itself will be part of that story, an inspiring place to visit and enjoy. It is hugely exciting to see it develop day by day as we start to realise Kengo Kuma’s remarkable design.
“The V&A Dundee team feels privileged to be part of the transformation of this beautiful city, reconnecting it to the waterfront and creating a flagship museum that will show people the power of design to change lives.”
The museum, which will open opposite a brand new railway station for the city, will also be at the outskirts of a £100 million “Central Waterfront” area, which has already seen several new roads network, a public park and events space, and walkways created in front of the Caird Hall.
The wider regeneration project, which has been in the planning stages for around 15 years, has already seen the demolition of the city council’s former headquarters, the relocation of the city’s Olympia leisure centre and an overhaul of its railway station. A future phase next to the Tay, which is due to open in 2018, is expected to include an urban beach.