Spaces For Exhibition & Display
John Tuomey (O'Donnell + Tuomey)


John Tuomey

©Al Higgins

I'm John Tuomey, one of the directors of O'Donnell + Tuomey, an architects' practice based in Dublin, with another Irish office in Cork, and one in London. The topic of this talk is to discuss how we think about spaces for exhibition and display, and to show how that thinking has prepared us to design a new museum for the Victoria & Albert Museum, to be known as V&A East, currently under construction in London's East End. I'll start by describing some of our early designs and perhaps that will set out a path towards the work we find ourselves doing today.


Irish Pavilion At IMMA

©John Searle

This is the so-called Irish Pavilion designed to house twelve paintings by Brian Maguire. It was designed in 1989 for the 11 Cities/11 Nations, an international exhibition held indoors in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. It was then dismantled, shipped home, and re-erected outdoors in the courtyard for the opening of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in the summer of 1991. This was the first public-facing structure built by O'Donnell + Tuomey. It was only a temporary installation (not a proper permanent building), but it staked out a little bit of territory for us, displaying our aspiration for an expressive architecture, an architecture that remembers the poignancy of the vernacular, our desire for buildings to emanate some sort of vital presence, an animal-like individuality - let's call it a search for character. It provoked a few strong responses from the Sunday papers who didn't like this little red shed - a disruptive element, parked at skewed angle in the middle of the museum quadrangle. It was more popular with artists than with architects - some people thought it was ugly, others thought it was too picturesque. Oddly enough, some people who had wished it wasn't there admitted to missing it when it was gone.

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