Little cause for discontent in Dundee

Building Design says that the V&A has wasted the time of architects who entered the competition for its new outpost in Dundee, given that winning architect Kengo Kuma has been asked to redesign to fit the budget. But how outraged should they really be? Not very, I suspect.

Competitions are notorious for not producing workable designs, because how can they? There just isn’t the mechanism for establishing the close relationship needed between architect and client, particularly when the architect comes from a different continent. And budget overruns are not unusual in this process either. Think of Zaha’s competition winning Aquatic Centre for the Olympics, which had to be changed drastically. In that case there was an interim solution that wasn’t great, but everyone seems to feel that the completed building, once the temporary add-ons are removed, will be a stunner.

Kuma is a very talented architect, who doesn’t seem to have done a bad building yet (let’s hope that the UK does not have the depressing effect on his talents that it seems to have done on Piano’s skills). It is exciting to have somebody of that level of ability working in the UK for the first time.

The obvious comparison is with Turner Contemporary in Margate. Like Kuma’s first effort, Snohetta’s original design was in the water – in that case entirely in the water, and not a gentle river but the violent sea. When that proved too risky the client jumped ship (appropriate metaphor) to the safe hands of Chipperfield, with impressive results. Presumably they felt that there was nothing to be salvaged. And presumably the V&A believes the opposite – that Kuma’s initial vision will work with the trimming and change of aspect.

We must wait to see the results. I believe – and hope – that they will be pretty good.







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