Beautiful Art and Design Museum of the Silvery Tay!

Dundee is getting a new museum, an offshoot of the Victoria and Albert in London, and Dundonians are hoping for the ‘Bilbao effect’. According to Rowan Moore, writing in the Guardian, this is the effect an iconic building has on the surrounding area, raising property prices and drawing in high-end development. It’s named after Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, which is credited with revitalising Bilbao. And very impressive it is, too.

Moore isn’t so sure it’s going to work in Dundee, but you can read his article for the reasons. I’m more concerned with the six shortlisted designs. You can find them here, each one showing interior and exterior views, plus a 3-D model that circumnavigates the proposed design and shows it in the context of the existing buildings.

The idea is to reclaim the formerly industrial area adjacent to the River Tay and connect it with the city. The Museum is only one part of the equation, the necessary magnet for growth. The other part is the redevelopment plan that will create the high-end infill. A video, Discover Dundee Waterfront, takes you on a virtual tour of the proposed development.

I have no idea how much of this is wishful thinking, or whether there’s funding in place for it, but it looks interesting, with a nice central park and the RRS Discovery already there as a visitor attraction.

The new museum will situated out in the river and connected to the bank. I urge you to have a wander through the six shortlisted designs and see what you think. The website incorporates space for comments. I rather like Kengo Kuma’s design because its shape is evocative of the hull of a ship and nicely echoes the RRS Discovery, suggesting a continuity from Dundee’s maritime past into the future. Then there’s Delugan Meissi’s rock balancing precariously on its narrowest point.

Of all the designs, Meissi’s is the one to give latter-day McGonagalls cause for concern. You will recall that William McGonagall, Dundee’s unofficial poet laureate, was prescient enough to have misgivings about the construction of the first Tay Bridge, which opened in 1877. In The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay, he says:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay !
I hope that God will protect all passengers
By night and by day,
And that no accident will befall them while crossing
The Bridge of the Silvery Tay,
For that would be most awful to be seen
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

Lo and behold, it blew down in a storm on December 28, 1879, with a loss of 75 passengers and crew on the train that happened to be crossing at the time.

Possibly some museum visitors might have qualms about being squished by a giant rock.

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