Victoria & Albert Photography Centre, West London Museum, Bern Schwartz Family Foundation

V&A Photography Centre in London

Architecture at the V&A London Museum design by David Kohn Architects (DKA), England, UK

2 Jun 2017

V&A Photography Centre London

V&A Photography Centre in London

Design: David Kohn Architects (DKA)

V&A unveils designs and first major supporter for new Photography Centre

2 June 2017 – Today, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) reveals the first visual of its new, state-of-the-art Photography Centre, and announces its first major supporter for the project – The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation.

Designed by David Kohn Architects (DKA), the first phase of the V&A Photography Centre will more than double the display space dedicated to photography by Autumn 2018. It forms part of an ambitious two-phased FuturePlan development project to dramatically reimagine the display of the photographic collection at the V&A.

V&A Photography Centre – Render of The Bern and Ronny Schwartz Gallery (c) David Kohn Architects:
V&A Photography Centre

DKA’s design for the Photography Centre will celebrate the original features of the V&A’s nineteenth-century picture galleries, while creating a rich variation of atmosphere through the use of lighting, and clever climate control to ensure a stable environment for fragile artworks. A modular system of display cases that can be easily reconfigured will allow for greater flexibility and varied displays of a wide range of objects, from photographs to cameras, publications and archive materials, exploring the relationship between art and technology. DKA were chosen as the successful practice following an invited competition and submissions from a strong shortlist.

The newly released render gives a glimpse into one of the largest galleries within a suite of spectacular rooms to be dedicated to photography at the V&A. Previously referred to as Gallery 100, the original nineteenth-century picture gallery will be renamed ‘The Bern and Ronny Schwartz Gallery’ in recognition of the generosity of The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation, the first major supporter of the Museum’s Photography Centre. The Bern and Ronny Schwartz Gallery will be a pivotal space within the new Centre, featuring a programme of displays showcasing both the greatest historic treasures from the V&A collection and cutting-edge contemporary photography.

David Bickle, Director of Design, Exhibitions and FuturePlan at the V&A, said: “We were delighted with the quality and inventiveness of DKA’s submission for the V&A Photography Centre, which answered the brief in the most effective and creative way. DKA’s design fuses traditional gallery spaces with new interactive interventions that will completely revolutionise how visitors engage with the V&A’s photography collection. I’d like to thank The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation for its generous donation, which gets us one step closer to realising our ambitions.”

David Kohn, Architect, said: “We are delighted to be working with the V&A and their curatorial team on this landmark project, not least because of my personal passion for photography. Our approach has been to offer visitors the widest range of ways to engage with this world-leading collection, framed by the stunning architecture of the refurbished galleries.”

Bernard Lee Schwartz (1914-1978), known as Bern, took up photography late in life with great dedication and dynamism. A successful American businessman, at the age of sixty he began taking pictures and flourished as a portrait photographer, depicting well-known figures from across the globe. Bern and his wife Ronny were regular visitors to the UK and admirers of Britain’s museums and art galleries.

In his short but prolific career, Bern photographed more than two hundred leading political, religious and cultural figures. His varied subjects included artists David Hockney and Henry Moore, dancers Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, and royals Prince Charles and Louis Mountbatten. Bern’s 1978 portrait of Sir Roy Strong, Director of the V&A from 1973 to 1987, has recently entered the Museum as a gift to The American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation.

Michael Schwartz, son of Bern Schwartz and President of The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation commented: “The V&A has a world-class photography collection and the new Photography Centre, featuring a gallery devoted to the history of photography, will attract a vast international audience. We are delighted to help the Museum share this exceptionally rich resource. My parents considered London to be their second home and would have been thrilled to be a part of this project.”

Further design details and new visuals for the V&A’s Photography Centre will be released later this year. Photographs from the V&A’s collection can be accessed by visitors in the Prints & Drawings Study Room. In addition to developing the Photography Centre, the Museum has upgraded its storage facilities to better house its photography collection.

An extensive project to catalogue and digitise the recently transferred Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection is also underway to provide web access and research resources for audiences around the world. The V&A continues its programme of photographic exhibitions at the Museum, and other venues in the UK and overseas.


About V&A FuturePlan FuturePlan is an ambitious programme of development which is transforming the V&A. The best contemporary designers are creating exciting new galleries and visitor facilities, while revealing and restoring the beauty of the original building. In the past 15 years, over 85% of the Museum’s public spaces have been transformed, improving access and allowing the collections to be more elegantly and intelligently displayed. By introducing bold new architectural interventions, FuturePlan aims to delight and inspire visitors, and to continue the Museum’s tradition of championing new talent.

About the V&A photography collection The V&A has collected photographs since it was founded in 1852. In 1977, the collection was designated the National Collection of the Art of Photography in recognition of its significance. Since then, the collection has grown to be one of the largest and most important in the world, comprising around 800,000 works including the recently transferred Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection. The V&A photography collection encompasses the work of the world’s leading historic and contemporary photographers.

About David Kohn Architects David Kohn Architects is a London-based practice working internationally on arts, education and residential projects. Established by David Kohn in 2007, the practice has gained a reputation for the quality of its design winning many awards including Young Architect of the Year, a D&AD Yellow Pencil and World Interior of the Year. Current projects include a new quad for New College, Oxford, and the refurbishment of the ICA.

About The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation seeks to advance public knowledge and appreciation of photography as an art form. To further this purpose the Foundation has sponsored projects in museums, libraries, schools and universities and donated photographs from its archive. The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation previously supported the V&A exhibition on the career of the photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron (November 2015 – February 2016), whose work was first exhibited by the Museum in the 1860s.

David Kohn Architects

Architectural photographer London

14 Jun + 7 May 2016

Elytra Filament Pavilion by Achim Menges at the V&A

Elytra Filament Pavilion by Achim Menges at the V&A
Design: Achim Menges with Moritz Dörstelmann, Jan Knippers and Thomas Auer
Elytra Filament Pavilion from above
image courtesy of architects
V&A Installation

19 Aug 2016
Victoria & Albert Museum Shop Competition Winner
Design: Friend and Company Architects, with Millimetre and RA Projects
Victoria & Albert Museum Shop
image courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria & Albert Museum

Date: 1852
Design: various architects

Location: South Kensington, west London
Address: Cromwell Gardens / Exhibition Road

Victoria & Albert Museum in London

Entry Facade – 1909, designed by Aston Webb:
Victoria & Albert Museum Building
photo © Nick Weall

Internal Court – Cafe on north side (pictured), Shop on south side:
V&A Court
photograph © Adrian Welch

Entry – 1909, designed by Aston Webb:
V&A façade
photograph © Adrian Welch

More recent architectural interventions:

Victoria & Albert Museum Jewellery Gallery
Design: Eva Jiricna Architects
V&A Jewellery Gallery
photograph : Katsuhisa Kida

Victoria & Albert Boilerhouse Yard, Exhibition Road:
Design: AL_A
V&A Boilerhouse Yard
render © Amanda Levete Architects

V&A Medieval and Renaissance galleries
Design: McInnes Usher McKnight Architects
Medieval & Renaissance Galleries
photo © Alan Williams

V&A Booktower
Design: Rintala, Eggertsson, Jenssen
V&A Book tower
photo from architects

V&A Museum Women’s Amenities
Design: Glowacka Rennie Architects
Victoria & Albert
picture © Arch Image Photography

V&A European Galleries – Europe 1600-1800 galleries
Design: ZMMA
V&A Museum Europe 1600-1800 gallery
picture from V&A Museum

Renewal of main entrance rotunda, new shop, tunnel, sculpture galleries
Design: Eva Jiricna Architects
V&A Building Entry
photographs © Adrian Welch

Victoria & Albert Museum Gallery
Design: Gareth Hoskins Architects
Victoria & Albert Architecture
V&A Gallery London : image by Morley Von Sternberg

Location: Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England, UK

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