V&A Dundee

A building that will inspire Dundonians and attract worldwide recognition

V&A Dundee – designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma

Since BAM started construction work on the site in April 2015, the team has overcome a series of technical challenges to deliver the architect’s vision of “a living room for the city”: a welcoming space that everyone can visit, enjoy and use as a space for socialising. The building also represents a vital reconnection between the city and its historic waterfront along the River Tay.

Project details

  • Customer: Dundee City Council
  • Architects: Kengo Kuma & Associates
  • Quantity Surveyor: CBA
  • M&E Consultants: Arup
  • Structural Engineer: Arup

View related projects

20 Fact icon different elevations and external façade walls
780 Fact icon tonnes of pre-cast concrete panels
150 Fact icon metres of comic board strip covered the hoardings
620 Fact icon temporary piles used in the river during construction
In June 2017, Mike Galloway, Executive Director of City Development at Dundee City Council, told the BBC: "V&A Dundee is an impressive feat of engineering. Nothing like this has ever been constructed in Scotland before. In fact, I can't think of another building anywhere in the world similar to this.”

His comment sums up the technical construction achievement that this stunning building represents.

For BAM, this milestone project was only possible thanks to the use of digital 3D modelling. Being able to access this model on site, via tablets, helped to ensure that each element of the building frame was set out to millimetre-perfect tolerances. Nothing less would have successfully delivered Scotland’s flagship cultural construction project.

'We have relished meeting the unique technical and construction challenges and working with all our partners to deliver a building that will inspire Dundonians and attract worldwide recognition'.

Malcolm Boyd

Construction Manager

Concrete and steel in perfect synergy

The V&A Dundee museum is effectively two separate three-storey buildings, joined at roof level. The outer walls take their inspiration from the surrounding Scottish cliffs. Their sinuous curves are actually formed from a series of concrete panels – every one of them a different profile – inset with lighter coloured pre-cast concrete slabs.

Creating and installing these forms presented some significant challenges. But BAM worked very closely with specialist structural steel contractor Severfield to manage the complex construction sequence, with its interdependencies between the steel and concrete elements.

Building in dry dock

The striking design also requires the museum building to seemingly balance, un-propped, over the River Tay. To achieve this, BAM created a cofferdam: a temporary structure that retains water and soil, allowing the enclosed area to be pumped out and excavated dry.

This allowed the team to build a temporary access road around the building as well as to put up temporary structures to prop the building up until the complex frame was complete.

“A cofferdam is an unusual structure as it lies in water,” explains BAM Scotland’s Construction Director, Jim Ward. “We inserted 620 temporary piles into the riverbed, which allowed us to temporarily reclaim a section of the river to construct the foundation section of the building.

“The cofferdam also provided a platform to construct the concrete frame at an angle, to create the distinctive overhang and attach the perimeter precast on the side of the building. Once the works were complete, we removed the cofferdam and reflooded the river up to the building.”

History in a comic strip

Reflecting Dundee’s unique position as the home of publisher DC Thomson – whose creations include Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan, Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street Kids – BAM chose to feature a 150-metre long comic book strip on the hoardings surrounding the construction site.

Comic illustrator Will Morris and graphic designer David Mackenzie were commissioned to design the giant comic strip. Called Adventures in Design, it told the story of the contribution of design to everyday life, featuring such Scottish designs as the Falkirk Wheel and Harris Tweed.

V&A Dundee Marketing & Communications manager Tara Wainwright explains the significance of the commission: “Comic illustration is such an integral part of Dundee’s creative history that we immediately understood the appeal for local audiences.”

Local economic benefits

At the start of the project, BAM organised a successful ‘Meet the buyer’ day with Dundee Council to recruit a local workforce.

127 attendees heard from Malcolm Boyd, BAM Construction Manager: “The V&A Dundee project is part of the wider regeneration of Dundee’s waterfront and we want the project to have a positive and far reaching local impact.” he said. “By employing local subcontractors, BAM is helping to create local jobs and boost the economy.”

The team has succeeded in its target of employing around a dozen people from the Dundee area new into the industry and has averaged 56% local labour on site.

I am impressed by BAM's commitment to create as many opportunities as possible for local firms and individuals to benefit from this transformational project.

David Martin

Dundee City Council Chief Executive

V&A Dundee, virtual fly-through video