|Frieze detail from showing |
Queen Victoria in front of the 1851 Great Exhibition.
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has had two pieces of good news recently when it comes to the museum’s redevelopment plans. First off, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has given them planning permission for the Exhibition Road project. And secondly the Heritage Lottery Fund has given them a chunk of funding for the redevelopment of the Europe 1600-1800 galleries.
The recent competition for the boiler-house site and Exhibition road entrance yielded a sympathetic new design by Amanda Levete’s studio AL_A which creates a new courtyard (so we can see those facades) and places an exhibition suite underneath. Now, not only has the museum got planning permission but they have confirmed that they have pledges of £25 million out of a total budget of £41 million, so work can go ahead. But it won’t be fast, work starts in 2013 to be completed in 2015, opening to the public in 2016.
One heartening thing about the museum’s Press Release is that it reaffirms the museum's commitment to restoring the South Courts. These had their Victorian ceiling covered up after the Second War with the elaborate Victorian wall decorations similarly hidden. For anyone who has wandered round the galleries with the Lord Leighton pictures (originally galleries to the main hall) and glimpsed original ceiling above the 20th century one, then this area of the museum is frustratingly tantalising. But we still have a long wait!
The other piece of good news is that the Heritage Lottery Fund has allocated the museum £4.3 million towards the redevelopment of the Europe 1600-1800 galleries. These are the ones on the lower ground floor underneath the main British galleries (on the left as you go in the main entrance). They were redeveloped in the 1970’s to display the museum’s collection of European art and design from 1600 to 1800 but have been closed for some time. Now the 1970’s false ceilings and floors are to be stripped out and Aston Webb’s original rooms revealed. As anyone who has wandered round the new Medieval galleries knows, the original Aston Webb rooms in this area are lovely and perfectly sympathetic as a backdrop to museum displays. The project will take two years and we are promised a number of objects on permanent display for the first time.
Three other museums are benefitting from this round of grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Imperial War Museum (which now seems to be branding itself as IWM) gets money for its new First World War galleries (in time for the centenary in 2014), the Design Museum gets money for their move to the Commonwealth Institute and the Dorset Tank Museum gets money too. The Design Museum grant means that the project to move to the Commonwealth Institute seems all set to succeed; whatever you think of the actual re-design, the fact that the building will be coming back into use is great news.
Oh, and the Heritage Lottery Fund have also confirmed that the National Trust’s Castle Drogo gets its grant towards the repairs which will stop the building leaking; good news indeed.