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Planning permission achieved for major transformation of the V&A Museum of Childhood
With a unique story to tell as East London’s first museum, the V&A Museum of Childhood’s ironwork structure was originally part of the 19th century South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). © Darc Studio.

LONDON.- Planning permission and Listed Building Consent has been achieved for the base-build scheme of a major redevelopment of the much-loved V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. This is a significant milestone in its plans to become the world’s most joyful museum of design and creativity for children, families and young people. Work will begin in late 2020.

First unveiled in October 2018, the proposals from award-winning architecture practice De Matos Ryan have been refined and further developed through over 30 co-design sessions with local schoolchildren, teachers, community groups and families.

Now commencing RIBA Stage 4, the base-build designs include:

• A reimagination of the museum’s outdoor landscape, to create a more welcoming arrival for visitors and a space for relaxation and play within the beautiful surroundings of the Grade II* listed building and neighbouring park.

• An upgraded Clore Learning Centre for art and design education. The expanded suite of learning studios will be relocated to the south-side of the building to encourage a new relationship with the museum’s gardens, and through direct access to the galleries, will enable teachers to provide their students with an inspirational, object-based learning experience.

• A ‘Kaleidoscope’ feature staircase in the Main Hall, inspired by optical toys from the museum’s collection, with a new café and relocated ramp for access to the galleries.

• An additional accessible entrance at lower ground level that will provide visitors with a dedicated buggy park, a Changing Places toilet and lockers for families and large school groups.

• Essential renovation of the museum’s infrastructure including major upgrades to lighting, acoustics and heating to dramatically improve visitor experience, revealing the extraordinary narrative of the Grade II* listed building so that its history is better understood and celebrated.

Pip Simpson, Director of Design and FuturePlan, said: “This flagship project for the V&A will see the V&A Museum of Childhood radically reimagined and reinvigorated as part of the biggest redesign in its entire 147-year-history - we are delighted to have reached this significant milestone. De Matos Ryan’s designs are rooted in the needs of our 21st Century audience while celebrating the building’s iconic Victorian structure. By increasing the spaces accessible to the public and improving circulation around the building, De Matos Ryan have developed a scheme that, alongside the plans for fit-out, will enable the V&A Museum of Childhood to realise its ambition to become a world-leading museum of design and creativity for children, families and young people.”

Angus Morrogh-Ryan and José Esteves de Matos, Directors, De Matos Ryan, said: “The museum’s gardens are an incredible and currently untapped resource – so we are pleased to have secured planning approval. Alongside, we’re reimagining what a museum can and should be for in the twenty-first century to help realise the V&A Museum of Childhood’s incredibly ambitious and exciting new vision to be an international powerhouse of design and creativity for children and their families.”

David Edgar, Labour Councillor for Mile End ward, said: “An institution cherished by the local community, the V&A Museum of Childhood has developed a scheme that will unlock its huge potential to inspire children’s imaginations in the wonders of design – and will reflect the local creative context within which the museum is located.

“Throughout, I’ve been impressed by the museum’s commitment to collaborating with local community groups, families and schools from across the borough on the plans. Their project aligns strongly with the Tower Hamlets Council’s vision for the area – I am really pleased they have reached this important milestone.”

Earlier this year, the V&A announced the appointment of East London based architecture and design practice AOC to lead the development of the V&A Museum of Childhood’s fit-out scheme – the second major piece of work to transform the spaces inside the museum and provide a more dynamic environment for the display of the V&A’s world-leading collections. AOC are developing concept designs for three new permanent galleries, a temporary exhibition space and a complete reimagination of the visitor experience throughout the museum. This vision for these spaces is set to be unveiled in early 2020. Co-design with the local community will continue to be a central element of the project throughout the fit-out stages.

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