Friend & Company / Victoria & Albert Museum shop, London

The new retail offering has opened, embracing the V&A’s ethos, celebrating art and design and providing a versatile space at its centre.


Project Info

Client: Victoria & Albert Museum

Architect: Friend and Company

Floor size: 465 sq m

Duration: 10 weeks


Words by Emily Martin
Images by Ed Reeve

Opening at the V&A ahead of the much anticipated A_AL designed courtyard and gallery space was London-based architecture practice Friend and Company’s design for the new V&A shop, which opened its doors to the public in May. Always a popular feature for many visitors to the museum, the new space embraces craftsmanship with a design scheme set to inspire the 21st-century museum-goer.

Two distinct spaces have been defined in the shop: the Pocket Workshop (left) and the Jewellery Pavilion (right) right top The PocketTwo distinct spaces have been defined in the shop: the Pocket Workshop (left) and the Jewellery Pavilion (right) right top The Pocket

Sitting at the heart of the museum, the site is crucial in defining the V&A experience. The V&A Archives at Blythe House reveal that the first V&A shop, as early as 1863, was a showcase for new crafts and a place for visitors to connect with the museum collections. Friend and Company’s design aligns with the V&A’s ethos: a destination that embraces the museum’s legacy, and celebrates art and design, as well as delivering a multifunctional space capable of hosting diverse events.

Workshop has a glass and timber structure, while the Jewellery pavilion is of mild-steel ‘weldments’ Workshop has a glass and timber structure, while the Jewellery pavilion is of mild-steel ‘weldments’

‘The shop design was inspired by our fascination with digital-craft processes and is now as much a showcase of latest building technologies, as it is a new space to display new designers’ work and additions to the shop collection,’ says Adrian Friend, founder of Friend and Company.

The new retail space sits at the centre of the museumThe new retail space sits at the centre of the museum

The design follows a concept of lanes and street facades. A suspended ceiling, installed in the Seventies, has been removed to increase height of the space, with zoned areas. The Pocket Workshop demonstration space focuses on craft and will feature a quarterly materials focus, while the Jewellery Pavilion shows the collections to their best advantage, and with both featuring digitally fabricated and hand-finished components.

Shop within the shop – the Pocket WorkshopShop within the shop – the Pocket Workshop

The Jewellery Pavilion is formed of four mild-steel ‘weldments’, weighing half a tonne each. They have been laser-cut to a precise pattern, hand-welded, and finished in a zinc spray. The Pocket Workshop has a glass and timber structure in which timber shelves are stacked and slotted into water-jet cut structural glass fins so they appear to float on ‘structural air’. This structure is then clad in glass shingles, held in place with timber stakes.

Detail of the 3D printed carpet around the Pocket Workshop and Jewellery PavilionDetail of the 3D-printed carpet around the Pocket Workshop and Jewellery Pavilion

Each area also features a new 3D-printed ceramic carpet; a form of robotic craft to create distinctive experimental spaces that transcend the galleries and celebrate a spirit of invention, as desired by the museum.

Detail of the 3D printed carpet around the Pocket Workshop and Jewellery PavilionDetail of the 3D-printed carpet around the Pocket Workshop and Jewellery Pavilion

The shop’s materials and textures reflect the taxonomy of the museum, such as folded steel with Samurai swords; Douglas fir timber shelving with Charles and Ray Eames furniture and Perspex lanterns with Patrick Rylands products. But the design also pushes traditional boundaries by using digital fabrication techniques. All materials have been digitally manufactured, either laser-cut, CNC routed or 3D-printed before being hand-finished.

Detail of the 3D printed carpet around the Pocket Workshop and Jewellery PavilionDetail of the 3D-printed carpet around the Pocket Workshop and Jewellery Pavilion

On a practical level the space features a clever, multipurpose visual merchandising kit that includes trays and boxes that flip from tabletop to wall display, maximising space and versatility, while the lighting system is designed to tune into natural light levels; it can change colour with the time of the day, and seasons, and to harmonise with light colour levels outside the museum.

The Pocket Workshop features stacked and slotted timber shelving in structural glass finsThe Pocket Workshop features stacked and slotted timber shelving in structural glass fins

‘We are fascinated with how architecture is made,’ concludes Friend. ‘Through our work we try to take control of the socio-economic tools of production to push the envelope of possibilities through owning, influencing and ultimately showcasing in the final design the industrial processes of manufacturing.’

Key Suppliers

Lighting Suppliers:
Zumtobel
IGuzzini
Helvar
Maxilux LED

Lighting controls:
DALI

Perspex Acrylic Suppliers:
Rodeca

Cork Supplier:
Amorim (Granorte)

Glass:
W-M Glass Ltd

Projectors:
Epson





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