The Victoria and Albert Museum is the largest museum for Design & Craftsmanship. The project is designed by renowned architecture firm AL_A (Amanda Levete Architects) and consists of a new main entrance, courtyard, cafe and gift shop, and a large pillarless exhibition space 15 meters below ground level.
For this project, Octatube acted as glass specialist and was responsible for the design, engineering, production and assembling of several structural glazed and stainless steel structures.
In total there are six components, each equipped with its own unique challenges; the spectacular Oculus skylight, the brand new courtyard’s eye catcher; the triangular skylight above the staircase to the museum hall; the fully glazed cafe and shop facades; the skylight above the gift shop; and the glazed ‘link’ between the existing Western Range and the new shopping area.
Nearly everything you see on the courtyard originated from the Netherlands. Apart from the porcelain tiles from the Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum, Octatube was responsible for all bespoke materials in the courtyard.
For the exhibition Road project, Octatube was involved in several glazed structures:
Carved out of the courtyard, this structure looks down into a brand new underground gallery space. AL_A conceptualised the Oculus as though it were an empty museum vitrine. The spectator looks down into a glass vitrine revealing the structure of the underground space, materialised by a folded metal plate.
The balustrade at the perimeter of the Oculus has a complex double curved geometry and is featured by a stainless steel balustrade with a mirror polished inner surface and shot-peened outer surface. In the design phase of the project Octatube realised a 1:1 prototype of the Oculus.
This skylight is featured by double glass units supported by laminated low-iron glass mullions that alternate in height.
The Café and Gift Shop Glass Envelope and Doors
The all-glass facades and skylight follow the complex geometry of the café and gift shop building. The transparent parts of the envelope contrast with the ceramic (porcelain) tiles of both the plaza and the roof cladding.
Steel Production and Installation
The Oculus functions as a skylight, allowing natural light to permeate the new galleries and creating a visual connection to the historic Aston Webb-designed buildings of the V&A by allowing visitors to look up out of the galleries and see the upper storeys of the buildings surrounding the courtyard.
The Oculus is surrounded by a stainless steel balustrade with bespoke finishes. It is glazed with exceptionally clear, high specification glass, illuminating the spaces below with natural, indirect light, ideal for the display of select objects.
The Oculus is encircled by a steel balustrade with a complex, double curved geometry. In total the balustrade is 45 meters long and consists of four parts that are connected by thermal expansion joints, which release the tension caused by changes in temperature.
A technique called ‘shot peening’, which uses high pressure ceramic blasts to get rid of any irregularities, was applied to create a high quality matte finish.
The glazing of the Oculus is composed of rhombus-shaped prefabricated units known as ‘vitrines’. Octatube performed several environmental, structural and airtightness tests over the span of a year to ensure the vitrines stay in perfect condition under any circumstances.
During the final construction phase of the project, the enthusiasm for completion was noticeable on site. Project leader Thomas Been from Octatube on finalizing the project:
“The building site has been very crowded and complex from the start. The project is characterized by the application of many new and unique materials and detailing, which resulted in the involvement of all kinds of suppliers. We had to carefully plan everything to make sure the operation would run smoothly and timely, it was a real puzzle. At some point, when the building and the new inner courtyard really started taking form, it was having an effect on the working atmosphere. It was noticeable everyone worked towards the final result with great enthusiasm.”
The project is characterized by high end material quality and a high level of craftsmanship, finishing and bespoke detailing. In this project there was a very tight construction site and an enormous geometrical challenge. A very passionate architect pushed the limits in every detail.
All of the project’s building components and interfaces are bespoke. To ensure the success of the project it was essential to design and engineer everything entirely in 3D.
Octatube was awarded with two Supply Chain Awards by the Wates Group in London. Octatube was announced the winner in the category ´Extraordinary Pre-Construction Support’ and highly commended as ‘Supply Chain Partner of the Year’.
Citation on ‘Supply Chain Partner of the Year’:
“Despite Octatube and Wates only having had a relationship for a couple of years, they have made a massive impact on our projects with their professionalism and approach to projects. Working on both our historic restoration projects at the Victoria & Albert Museum and London Business School and new build commercial at Tasman House, they have provided solutions to challenges that have occurred and worked in a collaborative manner with Wates, the client and the design team. The finished products that have been delivered are of first class quality and are a testament to Octatube’s attention to detail and exacting standards”.
Client: Victoria and Albert Museum