The underwhelming visit to Dundee.

My second field trip for my course module ‘Visual research Methods’ was to the V&A in Dundee. I’ve heard so many people talk about the V&A, they spoke about it like it was the best thing since sliced bread but let me tell you in my opinion that is not the case. Without being too critical I will tell you about my visit to Dundee. I had high expectations for the newly built V&A…after all it is Scotlands first design museum.

So let’s begin with the positive side of my visit before I start being one of those harsh design critics. The exterior of the building lived up to my expectation (fortunately), the building it’s self is a great piece of design, it could easily be mistaken for a boat leaving the harbor when seeing it from a distance. The building was designed by Kengo Kuma who is an award winning Japanese architect, he used inspiration from Scottish cliffs for the exterior. Each individual stone slab was pre-fabricated off site and put together using a number correlations and to me that’s what made it so interesting to look at, because I knew the hard work and the confusing drawings that went in behind the final outcome, and also because I know that if it was me using the number correlation for this building… I think I would have lost my mind. Just standing underneath the building I felt so overpowered and small compared to the massive piece of architecture. So I would say that the exterior of the V&A in it’s self is an incredibly piece of design and to put it nicely, if it wasn’t for my late train home I would have left after seeing it.

Now onto the bit that you’ll enjoy. The V&A despite being the first design museum in Scotland was built to be a “living room for the city” and it is exactly that, I am 97% sure that the whole population of Dundee could use that building as a “living room”. The amount of space given up to the cafe, gift shop and just the open space in general compared to the design artefacts is… to put it bluntly ridiculous. There was such little space for the designs that there was a 30 minute wait to get into the design room and when inside you were forced to go with the flow of the swarm of people in the room. Now don’t get me wrong I do love an open, airy space but I would have preferred that the very first design museum of Scotland had more of the historical designs in the open space than just an empty floor.

As for the artefacts their self there were a few that made my top 3 favourites. It was extremely hard to pick a top 3 of my favourites from the V&A because most of the design pieces I was seeing just weren’t standing out to me, they weren’t interesting enough for me to want to spend my time writing about them. So here I am feeling disappointed and tired after walking around this small exhibition space, about to leave; when I see the most beautiful piece of design I think I ever did see.

Diamond-winged tiara

This piece caught my eye straight away, the spotlights beaming down on to the tiara gave off this golden glow which made the diamond-winged Tiara look so elegant and extravagant. This tiara was commissioned by Mary Crewe-Milnes, Duchess of Roxburghe, the inspiration behind this design was the helmets worn by the heroines of Wagner’s opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. This tiara featured in the V&A is the last ever made and this is the first time that it has ever been publicly displayed, which makes it even more of a sight to see. The design is made up of 2,500 cushion-shaped, single-cut and rose-cut diamonds, the wings have been designed to move when worn. Now I don’t know about you but I would certainly like to be walking around with that Tiara on my head.

My next favourite design from the V&A was the sculpture of the Scots monument in Edinburgh, designed by George Kemp.

Scots Monument- George Kemp

This beautiful sculpture is based on Princes Street in Edinburgh, I walk pass the actual life size Scots Monument most days so seeing it scaled down to fit in to a tiny room was so crazy to me. The designer George Kemp took inspiration from Scottish medieval architecture which is such a contrast to the rest of the street, seeing the juxtaposition between this 61 meter tall sculpture is intriguing to me because it would normally been a little odd seeing these two styles together but in this case it just makes sense, maybe because of the scale.

This is why the Scots monument is on my favourite list because I see it all the time when walking through Edinburgh and never gave the work that went in behind it a second thought until I see this sculpture in the V&A.

Now we are moving onto the second museum of the day, the Dundee Contemporary Art Gallery. I wish this is where the blog would take a turn and I could tell you that everything was rainbows and sunshine but that’s not happening. I was hoping for something more in the DCA but I did’t get it; however there was one exhibition that I really enjoyed.

This exhibition is called The Black Flag, this exhibition caught my eye before I even walked into the room, the black frames and black dominant photographs contrasting against the plain white wall really pulled me in, the room just felt so calming (which I needed after coming from the hectic V&A).


This exhibition is showing the North Pole and South Pole and is taking “the form of an immersive photographic and sound installation documenting the process and performance of planting the universal symbol of the anarchist movement — the black flag”. I just really enjoyed this exhibition, it made me think the whole time I was in the room, either trying to figure out what the meaning behind it or thinking about the meaning behind each of the photographs. Theres was also something very calming and surreal about the bold black against the never ending white wall.

So… as you can maybe tell the Dundee trip was pretty disappointing but it was an experience for me and I did enjoy seeing all the exhibitions within the museum.



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Drew Moody

Drew Moody

Interior and Spatial Design @ Edinburgh Napier // Intern @ BRIC Interiors