Woodworks and the V&A - Museums Association

Woodworks and the V&A

This project celebrated the opening of the furniture galleries at the V&A.

These galleries were supported by the American Friends of the Victoria and Albert Museum through the generosity of Susan Weber and tell the story of furniture design and production over the past 600 years.

Woodworks was a specialist carpentry workshop on the Harrow Road run by the charity St Mungo’s. Their clients learned how to construct beds and bedroom furniture used in St Mungo’s hostels. St Mungo’s support thousands of homeless people to make life changes to prevent rough sleeping.

The ethos of the V&A’s learning department is to:

• inspire creativity and increase critical awareness
• create programmes that are relevant and meaningful, reflecting real-world design practice
• promote collaboration and participation.
• place the collections, exhibitions and architecture of the museum at the heart of what we offer

We invited workshop leaders Steve Jennings and Anna Zucchelli and a group of clients from Woodworks to visit the V&A and explore the furniture galleries and the British galleries.

None of the clients had ever visited the museum before. The group told us that they wanted to know more about furniture makers today. We arranged studio visits to Julia Lohman, then artist in residence at the V&A, David Gates and Michael Marriott, to explore a range of approaches to furniture and product design.

The group produced four chairs inspired by Enzo Mari’s 1974 manual, Autoprogettazione and designed them to their own specifications.

The group drew from their experiences on the street, the work of the designers they met and their ideas about the homes they would like to inhabit in the future.

The work was exhibited at the V&A as part of the London Design Festival in September 2013.

The project underlines the museum’s mission to use the collection to inspire new designs, making and manufacturing for all.

As Anna Zucchelli, the workshop leader, says in the film: “They have the skills to produce: what they learned was to design something useful for them.”