Museum plan was ‘Designed to Inspire’ 30 years before V&A Dundee

A far-sighted former Principal of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art called for a landmark building to house a major design museum some 30 years before the V&A Dundee project was conceived.

Myer Lacome’s 1977 proposals were rediscovered by Matthew Jarron, Head of Museum Services at the University of Dundee when conducting research for a new exhibition celebrating the city’s heritage in design. Located at the Lamb Gallery, Tower Building, Designed to Inspire showcases examples of design from the University’s museum and archive collections.

Matthew says that while there is no connection between Lacome’s plans and the later project, it is remarkable his idea matches the V&A Dundee project.

“Little is known about Lacome’s plan, and it didn’t seem to get as far as drawings or models, but we do know that he tried to get Dundee councillors and the Tayside Regional Council interested but his ideas were never developed,” he explained.

“This is just one example of how central Duncan of Jordanstone has been to the history of design in the city and to its rebirth as a cultural hub. Many of the objects we’re showing in Designed to Inspire were created by staff and students in the College.”

Speaking about his abortive plans in 1993, Myer Lacombe said, “I believed that Dundee had a unique opportunity to have a great architectural landmark on Riverside Drive which could take the form of a museum/gallery housing a collection of internationally acclaimed 20th century masterpieces of design and craft… In my view the Tay estuary needed – and still needs – a major architectural landmark at the entrance to the city, one comparable to the Sydney Opera House, for example.”

When he had struck upon the idea of a statement design museum, Lacome – who died in 2011 – was the Principal of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. The College merged with the University of Dundee in 1994 and its name was changed to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design to more accurately reflect the disciplines taught there three years later.

The idea for V&A Dundee first developed from the long-standing relationship between the University and the V&A. The University is a founding partner of the project and one of the major reasons that Dundee was designated a UNESCO City of Design in 2014.

Designed to Inspire has been timed to tie in with the opening of Scotland’s first design museum in September and to illustrate some of the reasons why the city has such a strong reputation for design.

Traditional disciplines such as graphics, illustration, jewellery and textiles feature, as do other fields where Dundee has made a significant contribution, including animation, comics, town planning and surgical instrument design.

Designed to Inspire is open at the Lamb Gallery from 9.30am-7pm on weekdays and 1-5pm each Saturday until Wednesday 10 October.

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