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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.