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V&A architect says museum is 'living room' of Dundee

Kengo Kuma wants visitors to make themselves at home at the city's new design museum.

V&A: Dundee's 'living room'.
V&A: Dundee's 'living room'. Hufton+Crow

The V&A has been described as the "living room" of Dundee by architect Kengo Kuma.

The Japanese professor and designer of the building said he wants people make themselves at home when visiting the city's new £80m museum.

V&A Dundee is set to open its doors to the public on Saturday but details of the design were first discussed over a decade ago.

These plans were met with excitement by some but scepticism from others.

Despite community spirit forming the foundations of the V&A, the challenge was always going to be convincing people living in the outlying housing estates, many of whom are struggling to survive, where unemployment is high and hope of a better future is low. 

Over the last four years, the V&A has been holding events and workshops in schools, community centres, sheltered housing complexes, hospices and prisons to involve as many people as possible in what the museum has to offer and to awaken the creative potential in them.

Around 100,000 people have engaged with the community outreach programme.

The first community programme encouraged people to submit photographs of their living rooms and the objects in them.

It was aimed at encouraging people around the world to think about how design effects them and the difference it makes to their lives.

A light bulb moment for many sceptics came when workshops, set up in all eight Dundee City Council wards, gave people the chance to make a lamp for their living room, shining a light on design and the merits of the museum.

Design: Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.
Design: Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. Hufton+Crow

Exhibitions such as the Schools Design Challenge in Dundee's Overgate Shopping Centre and the international Milan Design Triennale were attended by almost 70,000, while staff talks and international and local public events reached around 30,000.

V&A communities producer Peter Nurick said: "We've done work with local charities that support people who are living with the effects of alcohol addiction or substance misuse.

"We've done work with people who are in the criminal justice system and a lot of work with families in areas of multiple deprivation to make sure that design is not seen as an exclusive subject for the few, it's actually a positive influence for many, many people regardless of age or background.

"Projects like Design in Motion was one of our travelling exhibitions.

"It took the work of eight contemporary designers all across Scotland.

"It was an exhibition without a building.

"We were partnered with the travelling gallery in Edinburgh and took their bus all across Scotland to 80 different locations again as a way of reaching out right across the country to engage people in what V&A Dundee means and how design can benefit lives."

Other V&A community programmes include:

  • A community garden designed by residents.
  • A new daycare centre designed by palliative care patients at Roxburghe House.
  • Bonnet caps designed and sold by pupils at Rosebank and Our Lady's Primary Schools.

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