“Making Visible The Invisible”*

*talk by Amanda Levete available at https://www.pidgeondigital.com/talks/exhibition-road-quarter-at-the-v-a-making-visible-the-invisible/

Exploring London, “an editorially independent blog about London and its history“, noted on 30.6.17:

“Restored and altered as part of the creation of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s £54.5 million Exhibition Road Quarter project, the (Aston Webb) screen was originally built in 1909 to conceal the museum’s boilers. 

Named for renowned architect Sir Aston Webb, who designed the screen as part of his masterplan of the V&A conceived in the last 1800s (but who is perhaps most famous for designing the facade of Buckingham Palace), the screen originally featured a solid stone wall along Exhibition Road on the museum’s west side topped with a colonnade (through which glimpses of the buildings behind could be seen) and featuring a central arch through which to enter the museum.

The screen, which was damaged during World War II by shrapnel, later had black metal gates fitted in the arch for security. They were topped by a large coat-of-arms.

Under the guidance of architect Amanda Levete and her practice AL_A, the work – which actually involved moving the screen off-site in 2013 and then reassembling its 1375 stones last year – has seen the removal of the wall so that people now have 11 entrances into the courtyard beyond (now redesigned as the **porcelain-tiled Sackler Courtyard).

Which means the screen that was once designed to hide what was beyond it has been recast to reveal it instead.

The screen – and the Exhibition Road Quarter project as a whole – is being unveiled to the public today…”

From ala.uk.com

The Aston Webb Screen no longer serves to hide but to reveal. But altering it requires a response that finds the right balance between heritage and accessibility, and entails the demolition of listed fabric.

A survey revealed a beautiful way of mapping the imprint of shrapnel damage from World War II.

Gates to close the entrance at night were designed by AL_A to reference the absence of the stonework we are removing. We designed software to calculate angles of perforation to the gates, which traced the imprint of the shrapnel damage. The perforated gates resolve the paradox of resilience and permeability, and memorialise the past as well as celebrate the future. Movement past the gates gives multiple readings — from certain vantage points the pattern appears abstract and dynamic; from others you read the imprint of the shrapnel damage.”

**See https://worldarchitecture.org/architecture-news/cvefc/al-a-completes-world-s-first-porcelain-courtyard-for-v-a-museum.html

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