Entering through the arched doorway, a tall black pylon stretches up into the sky; black, shining and glittering with immense diamonds. Then, collecting the treasure map, it is time to check the compass, the rucksack for supplies of food and water and the walking boots to ensure that they are stout and ready for the long expedition ahead.
The pylon is “Zotem” designed by the Norwegian designer Kim Thomé in collaboration with Swarovski, embedded with 640 large crystals which are illuminated through a graphic mesh brining the crystal to life and drawing the visitor’s eye up to the sky.
In the treasure house, the visitor has an impossible task which is to ignore all the wonderful things around him and seek out the new. Unknown to him, the trick is to first find the “Cloakroom”, not the normal one for depositing coats and bags, but a different one where the visitor leaves with one of 150 Toogood coats fitted with a sewn-in map that holds the secret locations of ten sculptural garments installed by Faye Toogood throughout the treasure house that seek, chameleon-like to reflect the environment in which they are hiding.
The journeys with the two maps take the visitor to parts of this temple of the arts that he never knew existed as he seeks out the hidden treasure. Once the 10 statues have been discovered, it is time to find the other treasures, which include a 6m high Tower of Babel created by artist Barnaby Barford of 3000 ceramic models of shops, working upwards from derelict shops at the base to luxury shops at the top, reflecting on the modern religion of shopping and the search for heaven through retail therapy, 250 glass globes inspired by the Art Nouveau Movement and created by Austrian designers mischer’traxler for the historic Norfolk House Music Room, holding models of 25 species of trapped insects which come alive (digitally) moving faster and faster until they crash against the side of the glass globe from which they cannot escape – and then go quiet for another frustrating attempt, an exaggerated and false perspective by designers Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale using ceramic tiles on the floor and sheets of coloured glass that reduce (or increase) in size as you walk through, thus appearing to open up or close down and a wall of 20 standing stones, designed by Grafton Architects, each representing one of the letters of the ancient Irish Ogham alphabet – exploring the ancient and the contemporary.
Exhausted, and in need of food and water, it is time to cool off and relax in the lake at the centre of the treasure house. Inspired by Tenochtitlán, the ancient Aztec city that was built on a lake, the pavilion here by Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, which can be changed and adapted for different events, reflects the multicultural influences that coexist in contemporary Mexico.
Good fun, and a devilishly clever way of making people explore the treasure house of the Vicoria and Albert Museum! The visitor at the end of the quest will need to relax and recover by the side of Escobedo’s lake.