We were honoured to hold the first architecture residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London back in 2010. In conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), we focused on the subject of work, and what we learned went on to inform several of our future projects that explored ways of working in the 21st century.
We mined the V&A and RIBA collections for drawings, journals, diaries and other source material to uncover the most successful designs that had impacted lifestyles across the previous three centuries. At the largest scale, we addressed ‘the big picture’ of how cities and communities have successfully supported the needs, wants and desires of a variety of workers in the past. At the smaller scale, we studied the buildings, environments, products and services that the collections contain.
In our research, we came across plans for the proto-industrial weaver’s house, engravings for an 18th century ‘supper box’, and the design for a now-demolished Victorian pub called the ‘Elephant & Castle’ which once stood in Lambeth, south London. We created a scale model of this pub based on the original architect’s hand-drawn plans and elevations that we discovered in the V&A collection. In reconstructing Albert A. Webbe’s design we recreated the way pub-goers would have lived and worked within the three main areas of the mixed-use building: a ‘public’ space for drinking; ‘private’ areas for regular patrons who used the watering hole as an extension of their home and office; and a large space for group meetings and community events. We wanted to underline the community role that pubs can play as a way of confronting the many pub closures happening around the UK at that time.
As we enjoy engaging people in architecture, we also devised events throughout our residency to stimulate a conversation about the built environment between professionals and non-professionals alike. One of these was ‘Office Futures’, a workshop where we invited participants to design and build models of the dual-purpose home/office of the future. We encouraged them to be bold, and the result was room full of multi-coloured, multi-purposed miniature show homes.
“At the time of their residency, I was Director of Learning and Interpretation [at the V&A], and had overall management responsibility for the Residency Programme. During this time, Aberrant supported Higher Education learning at the V&A through directly engaging with the public, along with students from Ravensbourne College, London Metropolitan University, RCA, University of the Arts London and Brighton University by introducing them to the Architecture resources and collections available at the Museum. In total around 55 HE students directly benefited from crit sessions, research seminars, studio visits and practical sessions taking place in the Sackler Centre for Arts Education. Their residency studio provided students with a tangible space to visualise the realisation of architecture projects and experience the day to day workings of an architecture practice. Aberrant Architecture’s work at the V&A was transformatory. Theirs was the first residency (in what was then a new and innovative programme) to seize the opportunity offered by their studio in the V&A to develop substantial higher education and community networks. The studio was alive with visitors and activity, far beyond the expectations of the museum for a residency of this kind. The practice provided a model that guided the V&A in its thinking about future residencies.”
David Anderson, Director General, National Museum Wales
“Kevin and David have supported HE learning at the V&A through directly engaging with students from Ravensbourne College, London Metropolitan University, RCA, University of the Arts London and Brighton University by introducing them to the Architecture resources and collections available at the Museum. During Aberrant Architecture’s residency, around 500 HE students have directly benefited from crit sessions, research seminars, studio visits and practical sessions taking place in the Sackler Centre for Arts Education. Kevin and David’s research into the V&A collections as part of their residency has been an invaluable tool in introducing collections research to new HE groups. Their residency studio has provided students with a tangible space to visualise the realisation of architecture projects and experience the day-to-day workings of an architectural practice.”
Leanne Manfredi, V&A Programme Manager, Higher Education and Creative Industries
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) & The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
V&A Museum, South Kensington, London