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Charles Holland Architects

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V & A Photography Centre (Phase 2)

CHA were invited to submit design ideas for phase 2 of the V & A Photography Centre. The design sought to not only provide a dynamic, engaging and exciting photography centre but to also complement the phase 1 design as a whole. 

Our proposal responded to the clients needs for a new library, climate-controlled and flexible galleries and a curiosity room, as well as link with the phase 1 designs.

The V & A have acquired the Royal Photographic Society’s collection of archive and library materials and were looking for a space to house and showcase those materials. CHA proposed a series of powered coated metal and mesh wall hung bookcases that both protected and showed off the collection. The use of semi transparent mesh suggests the outline of a more traditional library while offering a contemporary material palette and visual transparency. 

There would also be a second inner ring of shelves providing informal browsing, offering seating nooks and displays. This allows for visitors to the gallery to enjoy the materials, whilst also allowing views through the permanent collection. 

Our response to the climate-controlled galleries was to provide a series of moveable partitions that allow for the space to be divided up in different ways and complimenting the traditional gallery wall space for large-scale exhibition work. 

The design language of the partitions follows on from the library, using coloured, powered coated mesh and metal sections to create elements with a degree of transparency. One side of the moveable sections is clad in plasterboard allowing for conventional wall display. The addition of curtains offer another means to sub-divide the space or draw attention to the specific exhibits and sub-spaces.

The last room in the centre is the curiosity room, which offers up a workshop and ‘hands-on’ feel in response to the aspirations of the V & A. Rather like a cross between a Victorian ‘cabinet of curiosities’ and the inside of a workshop, the room is lined with metal shelves allowing the display of a variety of objects, all locally lit. 

A ‘shed’ like structure is integrated into the metal shelves evoking early photographic development spaces as well as amateur darkrooms. It offers a route through to the backroom ‘photo-booth’. This later space evokes a professional photographers studio with lighting equipment, an infinity curve and editing booths. 

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