Architect Kengo Kuma: Dundee’s V&A and its waterfront have been given ‘new life’ since Covid

The Japanese architect behind Dundee's iconic V&A museum has said that changes to the attraction have given it “new life” and made it more welcoming since it was unveiled four years ago.

Speaking on his first visit to the waterfront building since it was forced to close by the Covid pandemic, Kengo Kuma praised the transformation of the surrounding area, which now boasts an urban beach, a huge whale sculpture and a cycle hire centre.

The architect, whose practice won an international competition to design the museum in 2010, said the scale of development on neighbouring sites meant the building meant V&A Dundee no longer looked "isolated" on the banks of the Tay.

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The architect, whose vision for V&A Dundee was for it to become a “living room” for the city, said the interior of the building was now feeling "warmer and softer" because the wood panelling used had changed colour since it was installed.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed the V&A Dundee museum of design. Picture: John Devlin
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The architect was back in the city to help unveil a wood and steel sculpture, inspired by the museum’s architecture, which he has designed for limited edition bottles of The Dalmore malt whisky brand, under its long-term partnership with Dundee V&A.

Work began on V&A Dundee, which cost more than £80 million to create, in March 2015, with the attraction unveiled in September 2018.

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Speaking during his visit to the museum, Kuma said: “Dundee itself has changed a lot since the V&A opened, I think.

“Four years ago the building was an isolated object, but it now has a new relationship with its neighbours. I'm very happy to see that kind of change.

Architect Kengo Kuma outside the V&A Dundee building he designed. Picture: John Devlin

"The initial idea for this building was for it to activate the waterfront. It is the most important part of a city.

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"If it has a vibrant feeling, those vibrations help activate the whole city and change it in future.

“The waterfront has changed a lot since I last came here, with so many people using it for walking and cycling.

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"I thought there would be some street furniture, lighting or works of art on the waterfront, but there is much more on the waterfront now than I expected.

“It was a surprise that there is now a beach, but I really enjoy unexpected things. It’s a really new idea and is exciting as a space for children. I really want to take the idea back to Japan."

V&A Dundee had notched up its first million visitors by February 2020, just weeks before the attraction was forced to close by Covid.

V&A Dundee has hosted exhibitions on fashion designer Mary Quant, a celebration of nightclubs and dance choreographer Michael Clark since it reopened. The ground-floor gallery has also been overhauled to host temporary installations and displays.

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Kuma added: "It was very necessary for museums all over the world to change after Covid due to the changes in lifestyles and society."The changes inside V&A Dundee have given new life to the museum. A more welcoming feeling has been added.

“I’ve also seen a change in colour of some of the material that we used.

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“The wood we used inside is now warmer and softer. The impression you get is slightly different. Outside, the ageing of the concrete is adding to its beauty. I'm very happy to see these changes."

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