London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has a smart new main shop designed by Friend and Company. Local architect Adrian Friend has replaced Eva Jiricna’s 11-year-old format with a more open environment.

‘The previous shop was looking tired,’ says Friend – who set up his business in 2006 and featured in our 2008 Architects Directory. ‘It also suffered when busy, as visitors would march down a runway “colonnade” in the centre of the shop, dividing it into two halves.’

Friend has ditched that single thoroughfare in favour of three ‘lanes’ or aisles, and has installed two ‘pavilions’. These house much of the jewellery offer and the so-called Pocket Workshop for craft demonstrations. The new layout means there is more wall space – covered in especially-designed shelving in Douglas fir and steel – for all that tempting merchandise.

View from Hintze Gallery. Photography: Ed Reeve

The store is full of touches that combine digital fabrication with hand-crafted finishing – a nod towards the museum’s raison d’être of showcasing fine design techniques. So one area has a ceramic ‘carpet’, made up of the world’s first ever 3D-printed ceramic tile.

This was designed with Guan Lee, founder of Buckinghamshire-based Grymsdyke Farm – a research facility, fabrication workshop and live-work space for architects, artists, designers. Lee was inspired by a 20th century Chinese bowl, whose pattern was digitally altered using algorithms, printed by a robotic arm, and then hand-glazed.

Modern processes were also used on Friend and Company’s undulating cork seating. It was CNC-routed from solid blocks of cork, similar to the way stone is cut and shaped.

Friend has also got rid of a 1970s suspended ceiling, and draws the eye to the room’s full height with back-lit polycarbonate panels wrapping the shop space. He borrowed this facade system from a recent house project.

RELATED TOPICS: VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, CULTURAL ARCHITECTURE