You’re looking for a book on architecture. Where do you go? Perhaps the Bookshop at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
You’re looking for a book on art. Where do you go? Perhaps to the bookshops at the Tate Gallery, the National Gallery or the Victoria and Albert Museum.
You’re looking for something unusual that is well designed or crafted. Where do you go? Perhaps the Design Museum or, again, the Victoria Museum in London which, in advance of its new shop as part of the Exhibition Road development, opened a completely refurbished and transformed shop at the heart of the Museum, aiming to be itself part of the visitor experience, enhancing the museum’s role in supporting craft and design.
Winning an international design competition, Friend and Company have worked with several designers including designĵ consultancy Millimetre, taking inspiration from museum’s first shop in 1863 which was used both to connect back to the museum’s unique collections, but also show new arts and crafts.
In line with modern retail thinking, which is about experience as much as products, the shop is designed to be multi-functional with a Pavilion which creates the special intimate spaces found in jewellery shops in New Bond Street and a craft demonstration and workshop area.
The floor is covered in a 3D-robotic-printed “ceramic carpet” of tiles, designed by Friend and Company and featuring a pattern from a 20th century Chinese bowl in the collection that is part of the V&A’s collection, thus joining historic patterns with 21st century technology.
Crucially, the amount of display area has been increased substantially, due primarily to removing the 1970’s suspended ceiling, which dramatically increases the height of the space. In doing so, they have been honest to its history of the space and have resisted the temptation to cover over brickwork which was previously left exposed and Millimetre have designed an adaptable display system. Of course, it means rigorous control over what and how products are displayed. The lighting enhances the height with high level panels thrusting upwards above the central displays and minimal additional lighting to highlight the wall displays.
“The shop design was inspired by our fascination with digital craft processes and is now as much a showcase of latest building technologies as it is a space to display new designers work and additions to the shop collection.” (Adrian Friend)
Whether you buy or not (the V&A hopes for the former), the new shop is an enjoyable part of the visitor experience and is not to be missed though, perversely, the new Exhibition Road entrance makes it easier to do so than in the past.