Arup looks to advanced digital modelling to deliver Scotland’s first design museum

Brad Ryan, Senior PR Coordinator Brad Ryan UKIMEA Press Office,London
21 September 2018

V&A Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum, was opened to the public on Saturday 15 September. The only V&A outside of London, the museum provides an international centre for design, discovery and learning. It features permanent galleries celebrating Scottish design, as well as an international programme of changing exhibitions, showcasing the best of design from around the world.

For Arup, the opening represents the culmination of an eight-year relationship with Dundee City Council, together with Kengo Kuma and Associates in transforming this award-winning design from vision to reality.  We were appointed to provide Civil, Structural and Building Services Engineering along with specialist Acoustic, Fire, Maritime, Lighting and Façade Design services.

V&A Dundee is a significant departure from ordinary engineering practice and the ambitious design provided the team with an opportunity to find new and innovative ways of working. The striking museum is a geometrically complex three storey building with an upper level of open gallery spaces cantilevering off two lower levels of workshop and office spaces.

To make the museum a possibility, advanced analysis tools were central to the building’s success. Arup's Dan Clipsom commented "No is not an answer. We like to sit down and look at things that seem impossible and start thinking about how we might achieve them."


V&A Dundee Exterior V&A Dundee Exterior
An integrated 3D model of the entire building was created as a coordination tool.

Digital design: a striking building that is stable

The building functions in a similar way to a shell in that it is a continuous, interconnected structure. The roof, walls and flooring all work together to make the building stable. Instead of seeing the twists and folds of the walls as a problem, the engineers considered how these complexities could help strengthen the building, in the same way origami relies on paper becoming more rigid when folded.

To understand what impact these details would have on the overall structure, 3D and analysis models were vital. An integrated 3D model of the entire building was created as a coordination tool, meaning the engineers and contractors involved in the construction could all study a miniature version of what they were about to create.

You can get only so far with intuition. It gets you to the point where you think the structure will work and then you dive into the analysis and start playing with it. Having an analysis model tells you where the forces are going. When there were areas that were overloaded, we had to think about where to strengthen it ”

Dan Clipsom Associate | Building Structures

Realising the competition design

The finished structure remains true to the extraordinary design that won the competition. The shape is slightly steeper and less splayed than the original concept, but despite minor alterations, the largest overhang sees the roof extend an impressive 19.8 metres beyond the footprint of the museum.

The building consists of two separate parts joined at the upper floor, where huge steel beams connect the exterior walls to two cores, providing support. The largest tension in a single beam is the equivalent of supporting around 40 double decker buses.

While the lower floor is split in two, separating staff quarters from the public areas, the upper floor provides huge, uninterrupted gallery spaces. The separation of the structure at the lower levels allows for an outside walkway to cut through the middle of the building, an archway joining the river to the city.

Lighting also provides an integral part of the building’s design. Our team provided the design for internal, facade and external areas including galleries, foyer spaces and the lighting design for the Scottish Design Galleries.

Arup is immensely proud to have been part of creating this new Scottish landmark in Dundee. We were fortunate to work with a great client and team of professionals to help bring this vision to life. Advances in digital technologies are opening up new opportunities for the built environment and this project created new ways in thinking to push the way we create and design our future projects ” Martin Surridge Martin Surridge Director

V&A Dundee V&A Dundee

V&A Dundee sits at the centre of the £1 billion maritime regeneration of Dundee City Waterfront, which stretches 8km along the River Tay and its estuary over an area of 240 hectares, in a 30-year development that began in 2001.