Comments on V&A Extension

Comments in 'Building Design' on V&A extension

9 August 2012

Amanda Levete’s plans for the V&A Museum threaten the architectural integrity of the whole area, an architectural historian has claimed.

Following Dixon Jones’s “pimping” of Exhibition Road, the proposal to punch holes in the Victorian Aston Webb screen are “bizarre and unworthy”, claimed Emma Dent Coad.
Dent Coad is a writer, researcher and lecturer on architecture but also a councillor in Kensington & Chelsea which last month approved Levete’s plan.

She was one of two who voted against the £41 million scheme after a lengthy committee debate. The other was retired architect David Campion, who described the design as “appalling”.
After the Victorian Society wrote to the V&A last week urging it to reconsider, she continued the discussion on BD’s website.

“I admire the underground gallery principle and the revelation of the courtyard and interior facades; it is a good and intelligent solution,” she wrote.
“But there is no justification for the destruction of the entire Aston Webb screen; the proposal looks frankly bizarre and unworthy.
“Given that they have already ‘pimped’ Exhibition Road, the historic and architectural integrity of the area is under threat. If there is any way to revisit the proposal for the screen, we should do it.”
She added: “We don’t want to slaughter and cook the golden goose and turn South Ken into Barcelona, parts of which these days quite frankly are uncomfortably over capacity all year round.
“There must be a balance between financial viability and experience. I’ve been visiting the V&A all my life and studied there for two years. I don’t want to see it pimped like Exhibition Road; a dignified extension like Levete’s would be just about enough, without demolishing the entire screen.”

Dent Coad, who is deputy Labour leader on the council, has written widely on 20th-century Spanish design and architecture and did her master’s on architecture and politics in Francoist Spain at the Royal College of Art and V&A.
She helped lead the 2009 campaign to save the housing estate that includes Erno Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower in Kensington.

Moira Gemmill, the V&A’s director of projects, design and estate, said museum was convinced it had found the right solution to cope with the rapidly rising number of visitors.
“Suggestions from the Victorian Society to reduce the number of openings to the screen were thoroughly explored but ultimately rejected on the basis that this created an architectural solecism for which there are no precedents past or present,” she said.

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