The V & A Museum of Childhood, a much-loved attraction that has stood on Cambridge Heath Road in Bethnal Green since 1872, is about to change. New plans will transform this much-loved institution into a museum of design and creativity for children, families and young people.
Details that the V&A Museum of Childhood will be redeveloped was announced last week. The project has a widely-reported budget of £13 million and is hoped will reach completion in 2022, the 150th anniversary of the museum’s official opening by Prince Albert in 1872.
It has been developed in collaboration with local children, teachers and community group and, in the words of the official press release, the redevelopment will ‘create immersive galleries and flexible learning studios, invigorate the outdoor landscape, reveal and celebrate the building’s Grade II* listed Victorian architecture, and significantly improve visitor experience.’
Plans for the redesign of the V&A Museum of Childhood
The designs for the redevelopment of the V&A Museum of Childhood include some new, modern elements throwing into relief the historical architecture:
• The Kaleidoscope: a new interactive installation for the Main Hall inspired by optical toys from the V&A’s world-leading collection of art, design and performance and the National Collection of Childhood. This will take the form of a spiral staircase with interactive elements connecting the ground and upper floors (the children originally requested a helter-skelter, apparently).
• A re-landscaped outdoor play space designed to encourage interaction from the moment of arrival.
• A new lower ground entrance to improve access for school groups and guests with buggies, leading to improved facilities to help them prepare for their visit.
• Restoring the original Victorian fabric and details of the building.
Reactions to the redesign of the V&A Childhood Museum
Some of these proposals have been controversial. Caruso St John, the celebrated architect who designed the original extension which was added to JW Wild’s historic building in 2006, has criticised the design of the new lower ground floor entrance in the Architect’s Journal, saying it will adversely affect the building’s symmetrical design and calling it “unfortunate”.
The architects, De Matos Ryan, had this to say in their official statement:
‘In & Out’, reconnects the museum with the street, improving physical access and importantly providing immediate engagement, stimulus and welcome from the moment of arrival. Under-developed land to the front of the museum will be re-landscaped to allow visitors two points of entry, both fully accessible. The new entrance will house a buggy park, lockers and WCs, enabling families and schools to better prepare themselves for their journey through the museum.’
Others have responded positively to the scheme. Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: ‘The V&A Museum of Childhood is the jewel in the V&A’s crown. It sits in a borough with an iconic status for its vibrancy, culture and creativity, and extraordinary history, but also the highest levels of child poverty in the country. By equipping children and young people with skills and confidence needed for a career in the creative sector – one of the fastest growing parts of the UK economy – this redevelopment will help the museum really fulfil its potential to help transform the life chances of children from my constituency and around the country.’
V&A Museum of Childhood consultation – how you can have your say
The V&A Museum of Childhood is inviting feedback on the proposals through a series of events and an exhibition during half term on 20, 21 and 24 October 2018, so if you would like to have your say and be involved in the consultative process, this is your opportunity.
For more information, or to sign up for regular updates on the plans, visit the V & A Museum of Childhood website.