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V&A vision: Museum inspired by Scots cliffs comes to life

Dundee's Museum of Design will house Beano art and feature an ocean liners exhibition.

Inspired journey: Dundee's £80.1m V&A Museum of Design will open on September 15.
Inspired journey: Dundee's £80.1m V&A Museum of Design will open on September 15. V&A Dundee Museum of Design

A decade ago, Dundee was a bright pebble tumbling in a river of transformation.

From jute to jam, it had sprinted through history to emerge with exciting inroads into medical research, comics, video games and more.

The city was proudly noticing its new ventures, but so too were curious eyes abroad.

Dundee has had a rising international profile, with GQ Magazine naming Dundee the 'Coolest Little City In Britain' in 2015 and even The Wall Street Journal ranking Dundee at number five on its 'Worldwide Hot Destinations' list for 2018.

Manufacturing had given way to the creative industries, but down by the Tay its waterfront was letting it down.

"It was a mishmash of mini motorways, pedestrians pushed up into overhead bridges and horrible, brutal, 1970s buildings," says Mike Galloway, Executive Director for Dundee City Council.

"That was the first impression that visitors got of our city and it was a terrible one."

It was at that time that a group of visionaries met for lunch. An idea had been floating around and they wanted to explore it.

It was an ambitious one. What they needed was a landmark, a symbol of their past and their future that would excite and serve the city.

"We always felt something would come along that would really set it all alight and make it happen," says Professor Sir Pete Downes, a board member of Design Dundee Ltd, which is delivering the V&A Museum of Design to Dundee.

"It started to dawn on everybody that a museum of the V&A status could be the real landmark within the whole waterfront project."

It will be Scotland's first design museum.
It will be Scotland's first design museum. V&A Dundee Museum of Design

Ten years later, that first tentative idea has become a reality.

The finished museum, due to open its doors to visitors this September, will be the V&A's first outpost outside London, and Scotland's first design museum.

The Guardian has already compared its wow factor to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, northern Spain, designed by Frank Gehry.

"It's the beginning of a new era for the city," adds Professor Sir Pete Downes. "A city which is starting to show the confidence it deserves to have in its own future."

Inspired by cliffs on the east coast of Scotland, the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma who designed it said he wanted to create a "living room for the city".

On Friday, Mr Kuma will be in the city to officially hand over the building to the V&A Dundee team.

As they gather to mark the end of the first major stage in the journey of one of the most building exciting projects to take place in Scotland in recent years, we take a look at those first visionaries, share the stories of the team dedicated to bringing it to life, and meet the architect about to see with his own eyes, his idea realised fully for the first time.

The Visionaries

Meet three of the visionaries, Sir Pete Downes, Mike Galloway and Tara Wainwright, whose idea first sparked this incredible journey to deliver what has become a groundbreaking project.

The team gather around the table once more to look at where Dundee was ten years ago and where the city is now.

Building the Dream

Hear from two of the key members of the build team who have watched the pioneering design come to life, including Garry Moir and trainee site manager Annie Davis.

They share what the build has meant to them, the unique challenges they have had to overcome and explain just why the building is so unusual in terms of its construction.

"What excites me in particular about the V&A Museum of Design is the way that cutting edge contemporary architecture is being fully embraced by the whole of the city and by the whole of the country," says Mike Galloway, Executive Director, Dundee City Council.

"It is a completely unique building. I don't think we would have been able to build this building 10 years ago given the nature of its design and the technology and the preciseness of the engineering that's required to achieve it."

The Final Journey

The man behind the design of the museum, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, returned to the site on Friday to officially hand over the building to the V&A Dundee team.

It was the first time he was was able to see his idea realised fully for the first time.

Take a look at the final step in this part of the journey, and hear what the next phase will mean for the city.

The architect, who is also designing the National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, said: "I am delighted to return to Dundee and see the completed construction of V&A Dundee.

"Today I am pleased to meet with some of the people who have brought our design to life, and to give my thanks for their hard work in creating this complex structure.

"I love the Scottish landscape and this very beautiful country, and I am proud to be working on this project which will attract people to Dundee from all over the world."

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