If you’re at all into design, arts or crafts, no doubt the Victoria & Albert Museum in London is very much a favourite haunt. Or at the very least, on your list to visit.
As a teenager I spent many a Saturday walking its galleries, camera in one hand, sketchbook in another. And I have lots of fond memories of having tea in the William Morris Cafe with my mum.
So needless to say I was pretty bloody excited when I heard, a few years ago, that the V&A was opening its only outpost outside of London, on my doorstep.
A few days after it opened, I made the short train journey from Edinburgh up to Dundee to see it for myself.
Scotland’s first design museum is the first thing you see when you step off the train at Dundee. It towers up from the shore front, ship-like.
And although the exterior is concrete and austere, the inside is warm - every bit the "living room for the city" that Japanese architect Kengo Kuma said he wanted to create.
The cafe in the central atrium is the perfect spot to drink in the architecture, especially if you nab a table by the windows where you can see the River Tay lapping against the side of the building.
But what about the all-important exhibits?!
Well, the space is split between the permanent ‘Scottish Design Galleries’ and the exhibition space, which will host touring exhibitions as well as its own shows. It’s currently hosting an ‘Ocean Liners’ exhibition (which I didn’t visit.)
The Scottish Design Galleries were more than enough to occupy my attention though. The space is compact, but bursting with things to catch the eye.
It’s set out curiously. Everything rubs up shoulder to shoulder. In the same glance you can take in an antique fire-surround and a Christopher Kane gown. Or a spoon designed to be used for people with shaky hands, and a video game design.
While that might sound odd, I really enjoyed the eclecticism. Everywhere you look there’s something to claim your attention - and often something you didn’t think you had an interest in. It’s a really fitting tribute to, and celebration of, Scottish design.
And the jewel in the crown is the Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room. Restored from the Ingram Street tearooms, it’s on display for the first time in 50 years. Which is especially poignant given the fate of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building.
So if you’re thinking of making a trip, and I highly recommend it, let me know what you think!
Admission to V&S Dundee is free. Some exhibitions carry a separate charge.