The Victoria and Albert Museum recently opened its new galleries dedicated to the arts of living in Europe between 1600 and 1815. In total, seven galleries have been transformed, supported by enginering and design firm Arup, which provided building services engineering and the designs for environmental systems.
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, with 51,000 m2 in floor space, 145 galleries and over 4.5 million objects. The V&A collection consists of art that spans 5,000 years, from the ancient times to present day, across the cultures of Europe, the US, Asia and North Africa. The museum, which is named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, was founded in 1852 and is housed at the Cromwell Road in London.
The Europe 1600-1815 collection covers seven galleries dedicated to the Museum’s collection of 17th and 18th century European art and design. A total of 1,100 objects are on display, including examples of textiles and fashion, painting and sculpture, ceramics and glass, furniture and metalwork, prints and books. Many of the objects have been made for the period’s leaders such as Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great and Napoleon.
To present the impressive collection to full effect, as well as to meet sustainability targets, the V&A decided to redevelop the seven galleries - the largest gallery refurbishment in the second phase of the V&A’s FuturePlan revamp.
To support the building services engineering side of work, the museum hired consulting firm Arup. In addition, Arup worked with architects ZMMA to design a number of passive environmental systems, which provide the best possible environment for the objects on display, taking into account temperature, humidity, air filtration and noise levels. The systems have been built in existing trenches and disused ventilation chimneys to allow the original building fabric to be exposed.
“We have used really clever control systems that have been adapted from mainstream products. In taking this project through the commissioning phase, understanding how the systems work and how, in turn, these impact on the environment within galleries has been fascinating and insightful,” explains Andy Lerpiniere, Project Director and UKMEA Arts & Culture Leader at Arup. “By working with such an enlightened client, we have been granted remote access meaning that we can monitor the conditions within the gallery and, when necessary, adapt the systems. This in itself is a significant step change for the industry and one which should be applauded.”
Changing the world
Arup states that the sustainability approach applied during the project with the V&A aligns with its corporate strategy, which incorporates climate considerations into its way of working. Testimony to its efforts the engineering consulting firm recently made the Fortune ‘Change the World’ list.