Alice Stevenson

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"Ways to See Exhibition Road": A Creative Workshop at the V&A

A couple of weekends ago, I led a weekend long creative workshop entitled “Ways to See Exhibition Road” at the V&A as part of their Reveal Festival. The festival was held to mark the unveiling of the new “Exhibition Road Quarter”: made up of a new entrance, courtyard and temporary exhibition space. In a manner typical of the V&A, this quarter features  elaborately decorative original features combined with cutting edge modern architecture.

The rationale behind my workshop was to get the students to use the new space as a source of inspiration to create an original decorative pattern. So after a tour of the space, I sent them off, armed with their sketchbooks to explore and observe their surroundings, and find what they were drawn to and wished to develop visually.

The V&A has always been my favourite museum in London, a space where decorative arts are celebrated and modern design and florid Victorian ornament peacefully coexist. The new quarter embodies and distills this beautiful combination and it is teaming with delightful patterns and surprising details. These are some of my favourites:

The mosaic floor tiles in the new South Asia Sculpture Gallery.

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The patterns created by the porcelain tiles that cover the courtyard.

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Hidden gold leaf, lettering on Aston Webb's original buildings which are newly revealed and restored by the opening up of the courtyard.

The pastel-hued, elaborately adorned, newly restored Ceramic Staircase.

Even the grating in the courtyard make agreeable formations.

And I loved this pleasing, raised detail on the parquet floor leading to the Sainsbury Gallery.

The students used their observational drawings to create decorative patterns that embodied their personal responses to the environment. These are a few of the results: