V&A Exhibition Road Quarter by dn&co., United Kingdom19 February,2018
Opinion by Richard Baird
Exhibition Road Quarter is a gallery built under, and an extension of, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. Although the V&A is known for its commitment to innovation, its spaces within an early twentieth century Grade 1 listed building set limitations, with temporary spaces and retro-fitted interiors proving to be cramped and inflexible. Without the possibility of outward expansion, the V&A explored the subterranean, itself embracing innovation in architecture and engineering, to create new modern spaces with greater scale and opportunity, beneath. To celebrate the architecture of AL_A, and to tease and announce the grand opening, design studio dn&co. worked with the V&A to develop a campaign of posters and banners. These were unified by the line “A New Way In” and based around the concept of concealing and then revealing through layers.
Although inside the museum confidently curated past, present and future, the building spoke of immovability and the period, and had the flexibility to match. Exhibition Road Quarter is the V&A’s biggest transformation in 100 years. It looks, feels and functions quite differently, and dn&co.’s campaign captures the spirit of newness in a few different ways, whilst tying it clearly to the legacy of the museum through photography and the enduring, and rather satisfying V&A monogram, both of which share period flourishes.
The are a few different components to the campaign, details that speak of the evolving identity of the museum and its collection, but never at the expense of its world-renowned heritage. The layers motif functions well to hold together a number of interesting ideas. The initial impression is the immediacy in colour. Nothing really speaks of now more than bright spot colours well-handled and deployed strategically within a grey urban environment, and elevated by transparency as a way to connect, alongside form, old and new structures. London’s enduring relationship with building underground, the way campaign proliferates The Underground, and the new subterranean exhibition space is a satisfying parallelism.
Layering and sequence serve as a smart visual language. The tight cropping of structure, the eventual widening of angle, and the slow removal of layers between posters over a period of time allude to some form of countdown. It is not explicit, rather inferred, with a contextual sensitivity that considers routes into the city. Its a great opportunity to play with both continuity and change over time.
Banners also manage to invoke their own visual language, in the juxtaposition between cheerful modern colour and enduring stone architecture, a neat commonality between the halftone and the holes of the gates to the museum, and a beautiful use of size and proportionality that implies and emphasises a sense of space.
Much like transparency, the cutting of type through solid blocks serves to connect old and new. And working with small details like the angle, size and recognition of the V&A monogram, the half tone effect and the proportionality of the colour blocks, lend the campaign a more traditional material quality, where colour feels modern and screen-based, essentially creating two points on a broad spectrum that feels fitting for the museum and the art and design it contains. More from dn&co. on BP&O.
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