Design concept for the exterior of the V&A Museum of Childhood. Image: De Matos Ryan

V&A announces £13.5m redevelopment of Museum of Childhood

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 03.10.2018
Plan to transform venue into museum of design and creativity for children
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has unveiled plans for a £13.5m redevelopment of the V&A Museum of Childhood in east London.

Architects De Matos Ryan have been appointed to transform the Grade II-listed Bethnal Green building into a “world-leading museum of design and creativity for children, families and young people”.

The firm developed its plans for the project in collaboration with local children through a series of co-design workshops.

Intended to open in time for the museum’s 150th anniversary in 2022, the physical transformation of the building will draw on three concepts: “in and out”, a plan to create a second, accessible entrance and develop the museum's outdoor space into a playful, interactive landscape; “up and down”, an installation of optical toys that will draw visitors to all levels of the museum using a spiralling staircase; and “around and about”, a plan to intersperse the museum’s learning spaces throughout its displays, and move the library and archive to a more prominent site at the front of the building.

Educational activities will play a central role in the redevelopment ,in the hope of addressing what the V&A’s director Tristram Hunt described as a “national crisis in design education” following a 43% drop in the take-up of design and creative GCSE subjects since 2011.

Speaking at the launch of the project this week, Hunt said the redeveloped museum would “place design firmly at the heart of young people’s lives” and seek to transform the life chances of children in Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived boroughs in the country.

Education and outreach plans include reimagining how the museum shares its collection digitally, creating co-curated spaces and encouraging “creative exploration through play”. Four new galleries will showcase prioneering, child-centred design and maximise the number of objects on display. The museum also intends to give young people a “richer voice” in its decision-making.

The timeframe for the project has not yet been confirmed but is estimated to be around two years. Hunt said much of the funding would come from private sources, including philanthropists, individual donations and corporate sponsorship, particularly from local tech companies.

He added that the V&A would be “happy to be partners” with the government for the £120m post-Brexit festival announced at the Tory party conference this week, which is also scheduled for 2022.

The Museum of Childhood redevelopment is the V&A's second major capital project in east London. V&A East, the new £25m building that will house the V&A's collections and research centre, is currently under construction at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford and is also slated to open in 2022.

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