The V&A Dundee is a captivating design museum located in Dundee, Scotland, and the only V&A museum outside of London. Its initial design was chosen through an international competition, where Japanese architects Kengo Kuma and Associates emerged as the winners, earning the praise and approval of the judges. Arup Associates and Arup supported the project through structural and civil engineering. Several consultants from C-MIST and James F Stephen Architects also contributed to the success of this grand endeavor.

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V&A Dundee_©Hufton+Crow

The First Design Museum in Scotland | V&A Dundee

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V&A Dundee Exterior Perspective_©Ross Fraser McLean

The V&A Dundee, which opened its doors in 2018, has quickly become the centerpiece of Dundee’s waterfront. Inspired by the region’s rich history of trade and shipbuilding, the museum’s design reflects the character of Scotland’s cliffs with its textured exterior, specially engineered by Arup Associates and Arup. The building is shaped like two inverted pyramids, with certain areas distorted to resemble nautical ships. As Scotland’s first design museum, the V&A Dundee offers a wide range of exhibitions available to the public, including curated design collections, fashion pieces, art galleries, and paid exhibitions and events. With its exceptional architectural design, stepping into the V&A Dundee transports visitors on a journey through Scotland’s rich heritage of creativity and excellence as they explore the museum’s galleries.

A Tactile and Breathing Façade

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V&A Dundee and its Surroundings_©Ross Fraser McLean

Its unique façade is a seamless blend of form and function, inspired by the region’s history of shipbuilding and the cliffs along Scotland’s coastline. The textured surface creates a tactile experience, inviting visitors to engage with the building on a sensory level. Furthermore, the sloped exterior has been designed to allow air to circulate through its layers, creating a “breathing” facade that helps regulate the internal temperature. This innovative design enhances the visitor experience while making the building more sustainable and energy efficient. 

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Closeup of Exterior_@Hufton+Crow

The V&A Dundee is a prime example of how architecture and engineering can create a truly captivating experience. With the help of Arup Associates and Arup, the design by architect Kengo Kuma was expertly brought to life. The building’s exterior is a perfect combination of materials, including precast concrete, stone, and natural oak, hallmarks of brutalist architecture. This tactile quality sets the V&A Dundee apart, while its innovative “breathing façade” allows for optimal airflow and natural light, making the building sustainable and interactive for visitors. The exterior of the V&A Dundee is a testament to the museum’s focus on creating a journey for its visitors rather than just a destination.

Visually Impactful Interior | V&A Dundee

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Closeup of Interior_@Hufton+Crow

The interior of V&A Dundee is characterized by its use of sloped walls, which create a fluid and dynamic environment. The walls are covered in warm materials like oak, which add to the organic feel of the space. These walls connect the museum’s different exhibitions and galleries, making the overall experience more seamless for visitors. Sloped walls also create pockets of space for visitors to pause and reflect on what they have seen.

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The Reconstructed Oak Room_©Hufton+Crow

The V&A Dundee also showcases elements of Dundee’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room, a historic city center, which has been carefully reassembled within the museum. The exposed concrete panels on the walls and ceiling add to the museum’s raw and industrial aesthetic and also help emphasize the city center’s reassembled elements. This use of history within the museum creates a sense of place and highlights the city’s past and connection to the surrounding area. These elements, combined with the sloped walls and warm materials, create an interior that is both unique and inviting, making the V&A Dundee a true destination for anyone interested in design and architecture. Fortunately, admission to the museum is open to all and free of charge!

A Feat of Engineering

Exploded Structural Model_©Arup

Arup Associates and Arup were instrumental in bringing to life the design of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma for V&A Dundee. The engineering behind the building is remarkable, with 2,500 individual precast concrete cladding panels forming the exterior. Arup utilized 3D analysis models to ensure the stability and safety of the structure while also providing lighting consultancy to enhance the visitor experience. The museum was designed with sustainability, with low and zero-carbon technologies employed to ensure its energy needs were met. The ground and air source heat pumps installed provide renewable energy, generating 800,000 kWh/annum of heating and 500,000 kWh/annum of cooling. These efforts have reduced the museum’s carbon footprint and ensured that the building is a comfortable and energy-efficient place for visitors to experience the collections and exhibitions.

V&A Dundee Sections_©KKAA

An Icon of Dundee | V&A Dundee

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Iconic Views_@Hufton+Crow

The V&A Dundee is a remarkable icon for Scotland and demonstrates the creative and technical excellence of the international design and engineering teams involved. Arup Associates and Arup, who played a critical role in the museum’s construction, brought their structural and civil engineering expertise to the project. The result is a museum that showcases Scotland’s rich history and culture and demonstrates the power of innovative design and technology to enhance the visitor experience. The V&A Dundee is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in architecture, design, and the arts, and it will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on all who enter its doors.

Reference List:

Hernandez, D. (2018) V&A Dundee / Kengo Kuma and Associates, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: (Accessed: February 10, 2023).

Keating, A. (2018) V&A Dundee opens to the World • V&A Blog, V&A Blog. Available at: (Accessed: February 10, 2023).

Merten, C. (2019) Is the V&A Free?, SeeDundee. Available at:,spaces%20completely%20free%20of%20charge. (Accessed: February 10, 2023).

V&A museum in Dundee (2018) Arup. Available at: (Accessed: February 10, 2023). 


S, an architecture student, strives for innovative designs that inspire and enhance communities. Focused on sustainability and well-being, she aims to bring bold ideas to life through a deep understanding of architecture.