From the total of 120 proposals submitted to the international architectural competition in 2010, the panel of judges unanimously named as winner that by Japanese architectural practice Kengo Kuma & Associates.
Gaining favourable comments from members of the public, the new building reconnects the city of Dundee to the River Tay and its maritime history, as it is set on the site of the demolished Earl Grey Dock, next to RRS Discovery-the exploration ship built in Dundee that sailed to Antarctica from 1901-1904 by Scott and Shackleton.
The design is inspired by the cliffs of Scotland’s north-eastern coastline. The building form comprises two inverted pyramids that separate at ground floor and then twist to connect at the upper galleries floor, creating an open archway with a walkway through the centre that frames the view of the river. The shell is a continuous and interconnected structure; the twists and folds of the walls help strengthen the building, in the same way origami paper becomes more rigid when folded. Huge steel beams connect the exterior walls to two cores, providing support. The cladding – dramatic lines of pre-cast concrete that run horizontally around the curving concrete walls – creates patterns of shadows that change with the weather and the time of day.
Internally, oak-veneered panels on the stepped walls are pierced throughout by slot windows which create a dynamic, warm and playful light. The museum’s total floor area of 8,445m2 includes a main hall, learning centre, auditorium, restaurant, exhibition galleries and the permanent Scottish Design Galleries, as well as the reconstructed Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room, a whole tearoom stored in pieces until now.
While the lower floor separates the public areas from object delivery, preparation and staff quarters, the upper second floor provides very large and uninterrupted gallery spaces with unobstructed river views. Lastly, water pools around the building reflect the roof overhang of 19.8m length that is reminiscent of a ‘prow’, emphasising the shipbuilding heritage of the city.
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