For many, V&A Dundee is an impressive structure emerging from the banks of the River Tay.
They may see it every morning on their way to work, have come across pictures of it on social media or read about it in a newspaper.
But for a growing number of people, V&A Dundee is already more than bricks and mortar.
As well as showcasing great design, the museum will also encourage people to get involved in the process of creating something new. This is an aim we are already achieving thanks to a ground-breaking engagement programme with design, community and social interaction at its core.
One of the projects that has already had an impact is the V&A Dundee Community Garden. While contractors have been on-site constructing the amazing building that will soon be home to Scotland’s first design museum, a team of volunteers have also been busy making their mark on Dundee’s rejuvenated waterfront.
The V&A Dundee Community Garden was officially opened at the end of September, a wonderful achievement for all those involved in the project. The garden is a beautiful, calm and inspiring space just a stone’s throw away from the new museum in a corner of Slessor Gardens. It is also an example of the fantastic community spirit that is forming the foundations of V&A Dundee.
The garden was designed by a team of people living with, and recovering from, a range of health and wellbeing issues. Together, with the help of professional designers, they completed seven workshops and devised a plan for a space for people to socialise in, hold events or simply use to relax.
The idea behind the project was to create a space linking the new museum to the city. At the same time, we wanted the garden to demonstrate how design can be a part of everyone’s life and have positive impact on things like health and wellbeing.
After the design was finalised the garden was constructed by Careys Civil Engineering, the specialist contractor which also built the complex curved museum walls of V&A Dundee. The project itself was only possible thanks to the generous support of the players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The Rank Foundation and Tesco Bags of Help also supported the creation of the garden.
The last stage was to fill the transformed space with flowers, grasses and shrubs and we were delighted when a public appeal for volunteers resulted in dozens of people getting in touch, eager to be involved and give up their time to help.
I would also like to thank Paul Lawn of Gardenscape who supported the volunteers and coordinated the planting.
The feedback from the design team and the volunteers involved in the V&A Dundee Community Garden project has been great. As well taking great value from the process of creating the garden, meeting new people and sharing ideas, they have also taken pride in building something from scratch that will be enjoyed by Dundonians and visitors to the city for years to come.
From the outset V&A Dundee’s ambition has been to connect with people in Dundee, Scotland and beyond through medium of design. The community garden is one of several projects we have run aimed at encouraging people to be aware of their creative potential and embrace what the new museum can offer them.
Our very first project, Living Room for the City, was launched in 2014 and asked people to share photographs of their favourite spaces. It was inspired by V&A Dundee’s architect, Kengo Kuma, who wants everyone to feel at home in the museum when it opens.
This was followed in 2015 by our travelling exhibition Design in Motion which toured more than 80 locations across Scotland before travelling to the V&A in London.
And this summer our latest venture, the Scottish Design Relay, began in Dundee. This national project will travel to six different parts of Scotland, introducing young people to designers and drawing inspiration from each area’s unique design heritage. Prototype designs created by teams of young people will be displayed in the museum when it opens next year.
By thinking about design as a tool that can be used to engage individuals and communities, V&A Dundee has created a programme that not only encourages people to be more creative, but also inspires them to get involved in their local community.
I am hopeful the success of projects like the V&A Dundee Community Garden will encourage others to look at design differently, and consider how it can be used to engage communities throughout Scotland.
At V&A Dundee we are immensely proud of the magnificent building taking shape at the heart of the vibrant city waterfront. When it opens the collections and exhibitions within will celebrate historic innovations and contemporary design, while the museum itself will act as a hub, inspiring creativity among current and future generations.
We are also incredibly proud of the partnerships that are being built between the museum and the people of Dundee and beyond.
Peter Nurick, Communities Producer, V&A Museum of Design Dundee