Winner 2018

Award for
Construction Integration

Project Description

A new 1100m2 column-free subterranean gallery for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s temporary exhibitions programme with a new entrance, courtyard, cafe and shop - all contained in a 15m deep basement. Constructed within a courtyard bounded on all sides by Grade I and Grade II* listed museum buildings. Sophisticated 3D analysis, digital design and optimisation methods together with early considerations of buildability and construction sequence were crucial to developing the most efficient and appropriate design and reducing the risks during construction.

Judge’s comments

This creation of substantial new exhibition spaces and associated programme is a structural and architectural masterpiece. Constructed mostly below ground, adjacent to, and under fragile Grade I and II* listed buildings, construction methodology played an essential role in ensuring the viability of the architectural scheme and maintaining the integrity of the existing buildings. Structure and architecture are so interlinked as to be indissociable, displaying the evident synergy between the two. The entrance to the new gallery plunges visitors down and under an existing listed building facade through expressed steel framing that is brightly painted to highlight its use and celebrate the role of the engineer in realising this bold vision.

The team further exploited the courtyard site to its best potential by coordinating carefully with the contractor to achieve a secant piled wall that was installed only 300mm from the existing listed building facades. An innovative semi top-down basement construction method further added value by minimising cost and movement on the existing structures – with zero damage occurring to any of the buildings and their priceless contents.

The pièce de résistance is the new ‘folded plate’ structure that effortlessly supports a new courtyard and cafe above whilst spanning a clear 36m over the gallery spaces below. The trusses supporting the courtyard were first constructed to high tolerances on individual jigs before being lifted into position and interconnected, harmonising the bold architectural vision with the practicalities of construction.

Project overview

Structural Designer

  • Arup

Client Name

  • Victoria and Albert Museum


  • London, UK


  • AL_A

Principal Contractor

  • Wates Construction

Key Contractors

  • Bourne Group – Steelwork Subcontractor

    Toureen Group – Groundworks and Concrete Subcontractor

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