The New Members’ Room for the Victoria & Albert Museum has rehabilitated one of the original top floor galleries within the Grade I 1909 Aston Webb building. The creative adaptation of the original gallery, which is both magnificent in character and vast in scale, has been envisaged as part of the natural continuum of the Museum fabric. The design has subtly restored and retained existing spatial or detail character and where appropriate reinvented architectural features including lighting and furniture.
The atmosphere of the majestic gallery has been preserved as an open-plan, daylight-filled room. New architectural interventions have been added to accentuate the qualities of the original building, as well as provide visitor comfort with bespoke-designed furniture which creates smaller rooms within the overall space. The original floor level of the gallery has been elevated almost half-a-metre to enable visitors to take in views from the existing windows to the Sackler Courtyard overlooking the new Sainsbury Gallery. Large mirror installations amplify the energy and activity within the room, creating new perspectives from inside-to-outside, and to other levels within the Museum via a light well which connects the existing galleries.
A series of new furniture pieces and products have been designed by Carmody Groarke exclusively for the Members’ Room. Substantial decorative-marble tables harmonising with subtly-coloured, luxurious leather fixed-seating form a spatial counterpoint to the more light-weight, loose furniture and create a mixture of formal and informal areas within the overall Room.
Original gallery light fittings have been re-interpreted in the design of a new fluted-glass luminaire hanging in gently-glowing clusters overhead. The centrepiece of the Members' Room is a huge, monolithic terrazzo bar, whose material is a contemporary interpretation of the white marble entrance staircase and whose sculptural, sectional form is intended to rhyme with the mouldings of the ceiling above. Through a rich accumulation of details and design references - of tradition and invention - the intention has been to create a subtle but atmospheric backdrop to the Members' Room, one where visitors feel welcome, comfortable and inspired. The project, a key stage in the V&A Future Plan, was won in an open design competition.