V&A East: A new museum inspired by Balenciaga is set to open in Stratford
A design inspired by the enigmatic fashion designer is revealed for the new V&A museum
This week, architect practice O’Donnell + Tuomey who won the major contract, cited the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga as a major source of inspiration behind its plans.
Balenciaga was a shaper of design. Christian Dior dubbed him 'the master of us all’, Coco Chanel, the ‘only true couturier’ of the twentieth century, and on his death in 1972, Womenswear Daily ran the headline ‘The King is Dead’.
Today, the Balenciaga archive at the Victoria & Albert Museum is studied for hours on end by London’s emerging fashion designers, after a major fashion retrospective at the museum lionised his craftsmanship last year in a dazzling flourish of drawings, gowns and audio-visuals.
While the exhibition only exists in memory, as a touchstone in the V&A’s impressive track-record of pioneering fashion exhibitions, Balenciaga’s legacy is to be forever stitched into the genetics of the museum.
Left: Cristóbal Balenciaga. Right: x-ray photograph of design
The design team reportedly scrutinised an x-ray photograph of a silk evening gown, which details the complex inner structure that supports an outwardly effortless looking garment. The V&A East building is to be draped in a seamless, fluid layer, much like a dress by the couturier.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, unveiled the designs for the £1.1 billion transformation project, which will also play host to new spaces for the BBC, London College of Fashion and Sadler's Wells.
Khan said: "My vision for East Bank is one where everyone, regardless of their background, can access world-class culture and education on their doorstep.”
Fashion’s interwoven relationship with the natural world is well documented – be it in the sourcing of materials or as a point of inspiration – but not often is it contemplated in such close quarters with the man-made landscape of London.
The addition of a Balenciaga-inspired V&A East building to London’s skyline is the latest in a series of moves that positions the museum as a driving force in dispelling the myth that fashion is frivolous, while proving that good taste crosses boundaries, and lasts forever.