V&A Dundee: where innovation meets design

The first museum dedicated to design in Scotland opened on September 15th, 2018. Designed by Kengo Kuma, its architecture overlooking the river Tay mimics the shape of the Scottish cliffs. The building’s geometric lines melt harmoniously with the urban landscape of the city of Dundee and its port. Created as “a living-room for the city” according to the architect, the Victoria & Albert museum is a place for all, in which design creativity is at the core of the project.

With three exhibitions being held at the moment, the V&A offers different approaches to design from the evolution of liners during the twentieth century, various Scottish innovations in mechanics, fashion or decorative art, to current processes of creation and the impact of design on the landscape and living. The special exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed and Style is on view until February 24th 2019, and presents different uses of liners from the Imperial era through to the Post-World War period. The Scottish Design Galleries highlight Scottish improvement in techniques over the last six centuries. Finally, the Michelin Design Gallery encompasses the results of a working collaboration between local design students and professional designers in an open playful space.

One of the questions raised by nine young people from Shetland is “How can Design improve community?” Collecting, gathering, or assembling techniques serves the creation of a bigger ensemble, of an ideal space designed for a community living in relation with a specific land. Here, design acts as a media for the community that tackles environmental, political, and social issues through various creative points of view. In the collaborative work of textile designer and director of Niellanell Contemporary Knitwear, Niela Kalra, and the visual artist Amy Gear, the themes of isolation and belonging are explored through the Fair Isle technique of knitting. Using restricted colour palettes and motifs in endless combinations, they shape their own visual language from an inherited technique in order to give form to their own representation of contemporary issues.

The dialogue between heritage and novelty is underlined at every stage in the museum. Utilising George MacKay Brown’s poem “Beachcomber” (Fishermen with Ploughs, 1971) as a starting point for their work, a group of young designers from Orkney reminds the reader and observer of this ubiquitous tension between the past and present.

“Monday I found a boot –
Rust and salt leather.
I gave it back to the sea, to dance in.”


“Sunday, for fear of the elders,
I sit on my bum.
What’s heaven? A sea chest with a thousand gold coins.”

In addition to the collections exhibited, the V&A holds workshops suitable for all audiences to enhance creativity through art and design, dedicating a space to written and visual art archives and resources, the Inches Carr Trust Resources Centre, where everyone can be inspired. The museum also provides studios for designers in residence, thus creating a rich nest for innovation.

The museum is opened daily on free admission from 10am to 5pm, apart from the special exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed and Style which requires a paid ticket.

Website: vam.ac.uk/Dundee

Photos by Emma Naroumbo Armaing