Grand opening: V&A Exhibition Road Quarter
The Amanda Levete-designed new entrance, courtyard and gallery are ready to visit this week
The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, a project that has been six years in the making and marks the first major construction work at the museum in almost a century, opens to the public this week. Designed by architect Amanda Levete and her practice AL_A, it not only adds a vast new exhibition space – set to be one of the largest temporary galleries in the UK – but additional entrances and an impressive courtyard that pays tribute to the London landmark's storied history.
The latter takes its cues from the V&A's rich connection with ceramics and is the world's first all-porcelain public courtyard, painstakingly constructed from over 11,000 handmade tiles. The creation of the Sackler Courtyard has unveiled several significant facades and details that have never before been on display to the public. Among these is a sgraffito decoration on the side of the Henry Cole Wing; created by the first art students at the museum in the late 19th century, it employs a Renaissance technique involving multiple layers of coloured plaster scratched away to reveal a design. Meanwhile a newly created colonnade, opening up a new approach to the building, has been formed around the Aston Webb screen, a Grade I-listed structure originally built to conceal the museum's Victorian boilers. The building suffered damage to the stonework during World War 2, with this reflected in such details as the new metal gates that feature perforations traced from the imprint of shrapnel.
Other elements are set to redefine how visitors make their way around this well-known institution. The Blavatnik Hall is a new entrance that fronts onto Exhibition Road, and will provide new connections between the museum's sprawling galleries and collections. Meanwhile the 1,100sq metre Sainsbury Gallery, which reaches 18metres below ground, brings the V&A firmly into the modern age, not only architecturally but also in creating a vast and flexible space that enables them to host a changing roster of large-scale exhibitions.
You'll have to wait until September for the first to take residency in the gallery; entitled Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, it takes in some of the music genre's greatest moments in an interactive display created in collaboration with the Royal Opera House. However, until 7 July there's a chance to get a sneak peek into the space with the Reveal Festival. This free, week-long event is a testament to the V&A's wide-ranging cultural offering, bringing together such talents as fashion designer Molly Goddard, who's work will be showcased in four special catwalk shows, a site-specific dance performance by Julie Cunningham and Company and music from broadcasting platform Boiler Room.