Exhibition Road Quarter At The V&A: Making Visible The Invisible
Amanda Levete (AL_A)


Amanda Levete, 2018

©Matt Holyoaks

I'm going to talk about the V&A, the Exhibition Road Quarter, at South Kensington. For me it's one of the most important projects I've ever worked on and was very much the kind of culmination of a certain way of thinking and doing things in my practice, AL_A. And perhaps as distinct from the way that we worked as Future Systems.


Exhibition Road Quarter: A New Entrance, Courtyard & Underground Gallery For The V&A, London By Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A), 2017


What was interesting about this project is it started not with a competition, but a group of international architects (I think there were seven) were invited by the V&A, they were commissioned, to speculate on what an underground gallery might look like just off Exhibition Road. And the reason for that was in 2004 the Libeskind spiral design, which was for exactly the same site, was pulled. And that was a competition that he had won in '96, so it took a long time for it not to happen, and it was a very bombastic building, and it was very kind of emblematic of building as icon. And I remember at the time thinking, you know with the demise of that project - and interestingly it succeeded in getting planning consent, which was extraordinary given the historic context - I remember thinking it in a way that the demise of this scheme marks for me the end of the era of building as icon. So when we were commissioned to do a kind of feasibility, along with six other international architects, it was very clear that we had to do something completely different; but interestingly in that feasibility we took a more, slightly more, bombastic approach than the project that we won in competition. And perhaps that was us just kind of flexing our muscles and seeing how, seeing, you know, what was the appetite for kind of radicalism at this amazing institution that is the V&A.

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