Prized assets from European history have taken pride of place in seven restored galleries at London’s Grade I-listed Victoria and Albert Museum.
ZMMA Architects redesigned the space, fitting in a 17th-century French bedchamber, a Parisian cabinet from the reign of Louis XVI and a mirrored room from 18th-century Italy, alongside more than 1,000 exhibits.
‘One challenge spatially was how to integrate such big objects into a gallery,’ says Lucy Clark, associate architect at ZMMA. ‘We came up with a strategy very early on that these installations should be part of the route, but shouldn’t interrupt the main space.’
In addition to installing three historic rooms within the permanent exhibition, the practice restored the seven galleries to V&A architect Aston Webb’s original design. ZMMA uncovered previously obscured windows and removed interior cladding added in the 1970s – reclaiming 5,000 sq ft of lost space in the process.
A material palette of stone, walnut, soft leather and cast and burnished bronze was introduced to complement the colour and texture of the exhibits, which date between 1600 and 1815.
‘Each gallery has a different colour, a different spatial dynamic and that’s tied in with the collection and what we’re trying to say about the works on show,’ adds Clark.
Cuban art collective Los Carpinteros has created a contemporary counterpoint to the historic surrounds. ‘The Globe’, designed as a ‘room within a room’, will be used for discussion events in the vein of French salons.
The ‘Europe 1600-1815’ galleries open to the public on 9 December.