Friday, 29 October 2010

Dundee's V & A

click to enlarge

The above are the six final designs on the shortlist for the new branch of the V & A to be built at Dundee's waterfront.  I visited the exhibition and found none complimented the beautiful Tay estuary and the designs felt alien to my native city.

You can view them here and make up your own mind.

The public exhibition has now closed but there is one contribution which the panel should respect.  Dundee Civic Trust wants three of the designs to be rejected and has cast doubt on whether the blueprint by Kengo Kuma can be delivered within the agreed budget.

Dundee Civic Trust's planning group chairman, Jack Searle, wrote:

"The trust has, on a number of occasions, been asked by the press and others as to our position on the shortlisted schemes. We still feel that the V&A building should have been sited at the end of the open space at the heart of the new Waterfront but recognise that a different decision has now been reached.
"As our membership encompasses a wide range of opinions the trust does not wish to indicate a clear preference for one particular scheme.
"However there are some general points which the trust feels are worth making and which in our view significantly narrows the number of acceptable schemes. The first is that whatever the design selected, it must have an external form which will register strongly from both of the principal approaches to the city from the south, namely the Tay Road Bridge and the Tay Rail Bridge.
"It also seems essential that final design looks radically different from any of the other buildings on the Waterfront. All would need to go through the complicated process of development of a project from a design model to a completed building.
"This can result in greatly increased costs and in a loss of the clarity of the design due to structural requirements.

Durability problems

"Problems of maintenance and durability do not affect models but they do affect buildings. For all these reasons the trust would expect that the panel judging the schemes will have architectural, costing and engineering advice within its ranks which would enable it to foresee such problems."
On the siting and designs, Mr Searle added, "The need to provide some form of sheltered access from the shore to the selected building is particularly important, whichever design is selected.
"Three of the designs have buildings which go straight into the river, and hence will have a band around them which will lie between high and low water marks.
"Given the usual consequences of staining and weed growth, how this is dealt with will be crucial to the image of the building in use. The exposed nature of the building, not just to a river environment but to a marine environment, will have real implications for the choice of materials employed on the exterior of the building.

"In particular the use of concrete can be guaranteed to result in the visual deterioration of the building in a short period of time. Whilst the long views across the Tay are magnificent, the tidal and muddy nature of the river at its edge is not particularly attractive.
"Accordingly there would seem to be some question as to why access decks for some of the schemes feature holes in them looking down into the river.
"It is important that any elements above the general roof line are designed to contribute to the overall design and not to detract from it as the top of any selected design will be visible not only from the level of the High Street but also from the Tay road and rail bridges. Many otherwise attractive buildings are ruined by the addition of various boxes to accommodate everything from lift motors to water tanks to access stairs to cleaning facilities."
"On the basis of these points and a general evaluation of the schemes the trust is of the opinion that the Sutherland Hussey, Steven Holl and Snohetta designs should be rejected at this stage.

Other doubt

"We also have some doubts as to whether the very much larger building designed by Kengo Kuma could be delivered within the agreed budget. Finally, whatever scheme is selected it is important that the Discovery is provided with an attractive setting in its own right and not just left in a residual corner."
We can hope the DCT's concerns are taken seriously and Dundee doesn't end up with a building like the Scottish Parliament which is already looking down at heel and it's just over ten years old.  When I went to view the designs I heard the words 'The Guggenheim' mentioned often by staff.  I doubt if any of them has visited the Guggenheim because if they had they would know a busy elevated road ran right over the top of the famous building and the approach from the back of it shows none of it's gleaming splendour.  That can only be found viewing it from the front.
Dundee's V & A will only be accessible from the waterfront and as the DCT mentions, the building needs to look welcoming on a wet and windy winter's day. Let's hope, in their desperation to have an 'in vogue' architect design this building, the decision makers get it right.  DCT has only left two designs they think are worth considering.  Would you think they're suitable?


Woodsy42 said...

What an unbelievable assortment of unpleasant designs.
The concrete toad waiting to pounce is beyond words, then you have an inverted dirty iceberg waiting to fall, one with glass walls looming overhead (earthquakes?), a concrete reservoir overspill outlet and an oversized factory unit. Can't make out the other.
What gets me is that most are not just horrible but some are actively threatening in their design.
Maybe we are better of south of the border.

subrosa said...

I have to agree with you Woodsy and I'm disappointed to do so because I really thought at least one of the designs would appeal to me. (I'm fairly open to new style - or I'd like to think I am).

All I did say to a member of staff on the day was that any of these efforts will make the turbines in the Tay and the biomass plant at the harbour look good.

Demetrius said...

This lot all look like a disaster waiting to happen. As someone with bitter experience I can see future maintenance and related cost budgets out running the revenues of any of them. Keep it simple and keep it local and natural.

DougtheDug said...

Subrosa, Munguinsrepublic had a post on the same subject.

In that I noted where the architects had received their inspiration:

1. The heatsink on a computer CPU.
2. A partially disassembled cardboard box
3. A helicopter landing pad
4. Quartz crystals
5. An aircraft carrier viewed through a toilet window
6. A CD drive.

It's fairly easy to work out which is which.

JRB said...

It is a very sad reflection that this generation seems unable, through its architecture, to pass on anything which will instil a sense of joy and pleasure and simple aesthetic beauty, in future generations.

For some inexplicable reason, planners and architects seem content to offer up an array of glass, steel and concrete utilitarian carbuncles.

Throughout Scotland similar monstrosities litter the landscape. Sadly, it now looks like poor Dundee is to have its very own carbuncle.

RMcGeddon said...

Any of these designs would fit in well with the SNP's proposed new waterfront plans for Dundee ( biomass smokestack and two seagull shredders).
I think the 8 track player ( top left) is best. It looks retro and will give the waterfront a 1970's feel when combined with the smokestack and 2 old windmills.

Joe Public said...

Have you opened a "Book" yet on how much 'over-Budget' it'll be?

A rough rule-of-thumb is that over-spend is directly proportional to digression-from-a-cube.

Illustration #3 - (top right) will be over-budget by the greatest amount.

My guess (& your starting point) is Illustration #6 will be 100% over.

selsey.steve said...

These designs have one thing in common and that is their degree of ugliness. All are completely unsuited to the intended purpose.
In Hong Kong a similar competition was held for the design of the Convention Centre (Google it). The winning design was constructed against the wishes of the vast majority of the population. The commonly-used nick-name for the building, a name instantly recognised by every taxi driver, is "The Flying Cockroach"!
And the roof STILL leaks as it has done ever since 1997!

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

I think all of the designs offered will be steeped in controversy but never in history.

Each is a vanity of alarming impracticability with no cognition of purpose, locality or climatic conditions. Nor, and this is not unusual in modern buildings, no attempt has been made to incorporate craftmanship in the construction. In short the human element is missing.

subrosa said...

I know he did Doug but I couldn't find it on his blog last night. Looked it over several times.

subrosa said...

We've had a few carbuncles in the past John but some have now been knocked down. Sadly as you say, it looks as if another will be added to one of the most attractive views on the east coast.

subrosa said...

Oh RM, surely you don't think any of them is suitable? They're all dreadful.

subrosa said...

Now, there's an idea Joe. I should take bets right enough. It'll never come in on budget. They're using other people's money.

subrosa said...

Jings Steve, it looks like a warehouse. All that metal. What's wrong with architects working in natural materials?

subrosa said...

Never in history right enough RA. Each will look dreadful within 10 years. Such a wasted opportunity for a beautiful building.

Anon said...

Dundee has some fine Victorian buildings. And some fine modern buildings such as Frank Gehry's Maggies Centre. And I like Claypotts Castle. Perhaps Prince Charles should find a decent architect for the new gallery, so that we don't end up with a disaster like the Scottish parliament.

- Aangirfan

subrosa said...

Dundee has lost many fine Victorian buildings too though Aangirfan, more than any other Scottish city.

I too like Claypotts Castle and Broughty Ferry castle along with the architecture of the Nethergate but none of these designs will sit well on the waterfront. Call me old-fashioned...

The parliament is a disaster. The more I see it the less I like it and my first visit didn't leave a good impression.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

I think the Scottish parliament building is very apt - it sums up devolution nicely; a pure fiasco of little consequence and no purpose.

subrosa said...

Oh RA, you've just reminded me of when I did a post about the Scottish Parliament and its architecture. It created quite a stir and I think I also did a poll. It was either a love or loath situation if I remember.

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