V&A Dundee like a ‘crushed car park and framed by ugliest modern buildings’ but is still world-class, says bizarre BBC review

A BBC journalist has given V&A Dundee a bizarre five-star review.

On one hand, Arts Editor Will Gompertz says it looks like a “crushed municipal car park, and is framed by some of the ugliest modern buildings I’ve ever seen”.

On the other, he calls it “terrific” and “world-class”.

He wrote: “Sitting opposite me on the train to Dundee was a 30-something woman and her son. As we crossed the Tay Rail Bridge she turned to her child and said wistfully, ‘it’s great to be going back to Dundee’.

“He looked up at her wise face, blinked once or twice, and said, ‘No it’s not. It’s rubbish’.

“A lively conversation then ensued between the two who traded pros and cons about Scotland’s fourth-largest city, before the mother finally brought matters emphatically to a close by saying, ‘You’ve never been to Maidstone!’

“A bit random, I thought. And unnecessary. There is no need for put downs of Kentish towns.

“Dundee has a new star attraction that should win over even the most entrenched naysayers.

“Admittedly, it cost £80.1m, looks like a crushed municipal car park, and is framed by some of the ugliest modern buildings I’ve ever seen. And yet – and despite years of difficulties and political turmoil – the V&A Dundee is terrific.

“I’ll go further, it is world class.

“The first purpose-built design museum in Scotland is itself an instant design classic.”

Writers, photographers and bloggers from across the UK have had their say on the £80 million design museum, which has been more than a decade in the making.

Photographers capturing architect, Kengo Kuma at the opening of V&A Dundee.

The reviews and reactions to the building, designed by top Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, have been largely positive.

Architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright’s feature in The Guardian described the striking exterior of V&A Dundee in dramatic detail, writing: “Kuma’s building has a magnetic presence”.

He adds: “It is at once primal and futuristic, its great hull-like forms covered in slabs of gnarled concrete that fragment in places as they rise, as if already ruined.”

Inside V and A Dundee.

Comparing the V&A to the neighbouring RRS Discovery ship, he said they “are a pair of structures alike in their bravery-verging-on-recklessness”.

The Scottish Design Galleries are described in the review as a “tour de force” and he also praises the “dazzling” exhibits on show.

World’s media invited to experience V&A Dundee

However, Wainwright also makes reference to the controversial office block which is under construction across from the V&A, adding: “The view of the museum from Dundee’s Georgian city centre is already partially blocked by the hulking frame of a new hotel and offset by a garish new railway station, both part of a £1bn waterfront masterplan to “connect the city with the river”.”

He concludes: “Thankfully, Kuma’s concrete culture ship is tough enough to withstand whatever the developers want to throw at it.”

INSIDE V&A DUNDEE: Take a tour with these exclusive Courier photos

The Times’ Jonathan Morrison gave the museum three stars in his review, stating that “there can be little doubt that it has already become a symbol of the city’s much-talked-up renaissance as surely as the Guggenheim in Bilbao drew tourists into that Basque port”.

He adds: “That the new outpost of the quintessentially London brand — the first design museum in Scotland, no less — has already been embraced by taxi drivers, chip-shop customers and SNP ministers, and is fondly referred to as “V & Tay” in honour of the dark river it overhangs, is no less than remarkable considering its history.”

Some of the displays in the galleries at V&A Dundee.

Though taking issue with some aspects of the V&A’s exterior, Morrison says Kuma has designed an “icon” and concludes: “It’s unlikely that the new building will prove anything less than a consummate cultural success.

First impressions of Kengo Kuma’s brilliant V&A Dundee

“As a design, it certainly has its flaws, but it is capable of fascination, is unique and, perhaps most importantly, the people of Dundee seem to love it.”

Ellis Woodman, The Telegraph’s architecture critic, was more harsh on the building Kuma has described as his greatest achievement – voicing “frustrations” at some aspects of the design.

In his three-star review he said: “Positioned hard against the riverbank, the building comprises two twisting volumes that rise independently before conjoining in midair.

“Kuma likens the effect to a gateway between the city and the Tay, but the impression his building makes is ultimately as much organic as architectural.”

On the V&A’s exhibits, he writes: “If it can maintain that level of quality, the museum should be well on track to drawing the 350,000 annual visitors that it is aiming to attract.”

He describes the building as a “cause for celebration” but adds that the office and hotel developments of the waterfront are lacking “architectural ambition”.

Duncan Macmillan, an art critic at The Scotsman, also reviewed the building, describing it as “fittingly spectacular” – though he preferred the interiors to its exterior design.

He says the Scottish Design Galleries exhibit “is also where the museum’s V&A title becomes reality” with the Ocean Liners display described as “a fittingly ambitious beginning”.

Meanwhile, excitement is reaching fever-pitch on Twitter, with many expressing their anticipation at visiting the V&A for the first time.

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