The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London commissioned NORD Architecture to design a dedicated gallery for the Museum’s renowned furniture collection. The gallery opened last month, allowing visitors to see objects that have not been on display for more than 30 years.
Known as the Dr. Susan Weber Gallery, the space displays more than 200 pieces of British and European furniture, from the Middle Ages to the present day, as well as examples of American and Asian furniture and examines in detail the range of materials and techniques employed for each piece.
Cradle by Richard Norman Shaw
The gallery tells the story of how furniture was made and decorated over 600 years, exploring a thematic range of materials and techniques ranging from joinery, moulding, upholstery and digital manufacture, to carving, marquetry, gilding and lacquer. It focuses on techniques of construction and decoration and includes numerous examples of how conservation and analysis have revealed previously unknown information about the way in which the objects were made.
Designers such as Thomas Chippendale, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eileen Gray, Charles and Ray Eames, Tom Dixon and Ron Arad sit alongside lesser-known names all selected for their superior techniques.
Mexican Antique Cabinet
On display is be a 15th-century medieval desk cupboard, which reveals how English furniture makers of the time used oak sourced from 1500 miles away, and a bureau (1780-1820) from Mexico, veneered with mother-of-pearl which would have required craftsmen to saw shells for 5000 hours.
Other highlights include a dining chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1949), a gilded cassone made for the Duke of Urbino (about 1509) and a scagliola decorated table formerly at Warwick Castle (1675).
A central chronological display highlights 25 key pieces from the collection ranging from a storage unit by Charles and Ray Eames (1949-50), a Gothic revival cradle designed by Richard Norman Shaw (1861) to one of the newest pieces in the collection, the ‘Branca’ chair, designed by Industrial Facility (2011) and Wooden Heap, a drawer unit designed by Boris Dennler, which was acquired as part of this year’s Design Fund to Benefit the V&A. There is also a newly-commissioned seating installation by contemporary designer Gitta Gschwendtner, inspired by historic pieces in the collection.
Table from Warwick Castle
The gallery incorporates interactive technologies such as digital labels with a touch-screen interface to provide additional content and context for each object, a first for the V&A. Films in the gallery explores key techniques including joinery, boulle marquetry and digital manufacturing. Fourteen specially-commissioned audio recordings record the responses of contemporary experts, including David Adjaye and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, to the work of historic designers.
Cult Furniture, which is currently running an exhibition in the gallery, is one of a number of furniture retailers enthused by the success of the V&A's latest offering, which officially opened on Dec. 1, 2012. Visitors have flocked to see the collections and the gallery has been met by rave reviews from experts in the field of art and design.
For more information on the new gallery and to take a look at some of the exhibitors, click here.