Dundee’s Window to the World with Kengo Kuma

Dundee's Window to the World with Kengo Kuma

“Dundee people love their city and this is very important…”

Last September the international spotlight was focused on the launch of Dundee’s vision ship to the future, the V&A Museum. One year on, City Life were invited along by the V&A crew to join the first birthday celebrations with the spiritual Japanese master who imagined our hopeful ‘vision ship’, the internationally renowned architect, Kengo Kuma.

We discussed Dundee’s rich history and the symbolic new vision he dreamed with the V&A museum…

“I think, historically, Dundee and the water are very much related with its great trading history. Dundee used to be the window to the world. I wanted to bring back a kind of window facing the river and this window is designed to connect the river and the city again, and also this window is designed to connect the city and the world again. Now people are watching Dundee again. My major goal of this design was to make the museum as the ‘living room’ for the city and, eventually, that people will love the space and enjoy using the space and to see the people walking in the living room and being happy.”

Kengo Kuma V&A Dundee

We asked him what he thinks of the Dundee people, after many years interacting with the city…

“Dundee people love their city and this is very important. They love the beauty of the place and they love the intimacy of the city very much, and so love is the basis of the Dundonian people, I’m very happy, ha ha ha!”

Japan Olympic Stadium

“There is a spiritual connection between Dundee and Japan’s Olympic Stadium”

Kengo KumaKengo warmly laughed when we suggested that he is now an iconic Dundonian himself, who will forever be part of Dundee’s history and will always be remembered fondly and with love. So we asked him if he has taken a little piece of Dundee spirit with him into his own nation’s monumental project, the New National Stadium, for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (pictured above)…

“I also designed the Japanese Olympic Stadium as a window to nature, as most stadiums are objects isolated from their place, so I wanted to create connection, the same as Dundee. I didn’t design the V&A museum as an isolated sculpture, this is a gate, this is a window, to the river, to the world, and the same idea is used in the Olympic Stadium building. So, yes, there is a spiritual connection between Dundee and Japan’s Olympic Stadium, ha ha ha!”

Finally we asked this humble master and honorary Dundonian to share a little wisdom with young creatives and dreamers…

“My advice is to learn from travel, learn from nature. I, myself, travelled a lot when I was a student and I learned many things from my trips and from nature. In life, the most important thing is to keep working and to believe in yourself. I’m very lucky to come here to Dundee to work, as this place has taught me many things.”  

Kengo Kuma V&A Dundee

Kengo Kuma’s V&A tunnel was imagined and inspired from his boyhood experiences of exploring a cliff cave near his home in Japan. He describes caves as magical places that connect us from one world to the next. The V&A Dundee cliff theme and cave is symbolic of a connecting window to the river and to the world beyond.

Photos of Kengo outside the V&A, credit: Alan Richardson