Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo / Published by Dwell
RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete and her firm AL_A has just completed Exhibition Road Quarter, the largest architectural expansion to London's Victoria & Albert Museum in over 100 years.

The £54.5 million project (almost $71 million), which was first announced in 2012, provides the museum with 68,889 square feet of additional space, a new main entrance, and an underground gallery area. The renovation also features an open courtyard that's been boldly paved with 11,000 handmade porcelain tiles in 15 different patterns, creating the world's first all-porcelain courtyard.

Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 1 of 10 - Shown here is the Sackler Courtyard at the Victoria & Albert Museum's Exhibition Road Quarter.

Shown here is the Sackler Courtyard at the Victoria & Albert Museum's Exhibition Road Quarter.

Visitors can now enter the V&A from the street (Exhibition Road) through the new colonnade, which incorporates the museum's original 1909 Aston Webb screen. The screen—which was named for its architect Sir Aston Webb, and was originally erected to hide the museum's boiler room—has now been reworked to reveal the Sackler courtyard, which lies beyond. 

Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 2 of 10 - Shown here is the Sackler Courtyard and cafe at the V&A's Exhibition Road Quarter.

Shown here is the Sackler Courtyard and cafe at the V&A's Exhibition Road Quarter.

When designing the courtyard, Levante and AL_A were inspired by the museum's rich collection of ceramics collection. They had Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum—which has been in existence since 1572 and is the oldest registered company in the Netherlands—create handcrafted custom tiles for the unique open space. This new public area also houses a cafe with furniture designed by AL_A and manufactured by Moroso

Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 3 of 10 - The new courtyard is intended to be seen as an integral part of the original building, rather than an extension of it.

The new courtyard is intended to be seen as an integral part of the original building, rather than an extension of it.

Beyond this grand entrance, most of the project is actually concealed underground. A dramatic stairway leads to the Sainsbury Gallery, a versatile and column-free space. At almost 12,000 square feet, it's one of the largest temporary exhibition galleries in the UK. 

Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 4 of 10 - A dramatic staircase leads to the underground gallery space.

A dramatic staircase leads to the underground gallery space.

The stunning renovation also successfully blends modernity with the V&A's existing sense of history. "The V&A Exhibition Road Quarter is a reflection of the pioneering identity of the V&A and continues its mission of innovation into the 21st century. The Quarter reimagines the museum as an urban project, creating an exceptional place for London that will redefine the V&A’s relationship with the street and the public,"  explained Levete. 

Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 5 of 10 - The engineering and construction challenge is made visible to the public by steel columns and a beam that's painted in vivid international orange. It literally holds the weight of history and the Museum’s priceless collections above.     

The engineering and construction challenge is made visible to the public by steel columns and a beam that's painted in vivid international orange. It literally holds the weight of history and the Museum’s priceless collections above.     


Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 6 of 10 - Shown here is the underground Sainsbury Gallery at the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter.

Shown here is the underground Sainsbury Gallery at the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter.


Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 7 of 10 - The museum's original Aston Webb screen was modified and incorporated into the new main entrance.

The museum's original Aston Webb screen was modified and incorporated into the new main entrance.


Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 8 of 10 - The project was first announced back in 2012 and is the largest expansion the museum has seen in over 100 years.

The project was first announced back in 2012 and is the largest expansion the museum has seen in over 100 years.


Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 9 of 10 -


Part of an Epic Expansion, London’s V&A Museum Paves its Courtyard With 11,000 Porcelain Tiles - Photo 10 of 10 -