The Victoria and Albert Museum, commonly known as the V&A, was the first building erected under Prince Albert’s vision to create a new cultural district in London dedicated to promoting art and scientific education and to champion British industry in the international marketplace.
The museum’s purpose was “to educate designers, manufacturers, and the public in art and design,” according to the museum’s website.
Although the museum was founded in 1852, it was not until 1857 that the museum moved to South Kensington, an area in West London that had been chosen to be the cultural district of the city. And only decades later, after various museum names, did the museum become the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The area now includes the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, and Imperial College London, to name a few.
The V&A occupies a series of buildings spread over 12 acres of land and includes 7 miles of gallery space.
The buildings in the John Madejski Garden are inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture and feature brick, mosaic, and terracotta. The first of these buildings was built in 1857, and the last was finished nearly 50 years later.
In 1891, a competition was held to design a museum extension that would unite the appearance of the existing buildings. Architect Ashton Webb’s winning design is a mixture of mostly Renaissance and medieval architecture. Built in red brick and Portland stone, the building is a colossal 239 yards long.
Inscribed on the Romanesque archway, above a statue of Prince Albert, is a quote by artist Sir Joshua Reynolds that reads: “The excellence of every art must consist in the complete accomplishment of its purpose.”
Taking Reynolds’s quote into account, the artists, architects, and craftspeople who created the V&A museum beautifully fulfilled the prince’s vision to promote art and champion British industry. The building completely accomplishes its purpose.
To find out more about the Victoria and Albert Museum, visitVAM.ac.uk