Building Study: V&A Dundee, by Kengo Kuma & Associates

V_A-Dundee_Scotland_©HuftonCrow_070

The V&A Dundee is the museum’s first venue outside London and could have the potential to rejuvenate the city

Ever since Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao opened in 1997, cities across the world have been scrambling to realise their very own “Bilbao effect”. The process essentially involves the creation of a showpiece cultural venue, typically expensive, usually on re-appropriated post-industrial land and preferably designed by a stellar international architect. The said venue is hopefully effective as a catalyst for wider urban and economic regeneration and ideally becomes a trigger for enhancing the city’s international profile. 

This celebrity version of culture-led regeneration accelerated after the extraordinary success of London’s Tate Modern in 2000. Dozens of projects have tried to replicate the formula and scores of arts venues from Herzog & de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg to Foster + Partners’ Sage Gateshead in Newcastle owe some small debt to Bilbao. 

Alas, degrees of success in replicating the Bilbao effect vary sharply, with many cities lurching lazily towards shallow architectural exhibitionism but misunderstanding the winning combination of visual statement and municipal strategy that made Bilbao such a success. Now, one project promises to rewrite the architectural landscape for cultural buildings in the same way Bilbao did 21 years ago.    

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