Restored and altered as part of the creation of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s £54.5 million Exhibition Road Quarter project, the screen was originally built in 1909 to conceal the museum’s boilers.
Named for renowned architect Sir Aston Webb, who designed the screen as part of his masterplan of the V&A conceived in the last 1800s (but who is perhaps most famous for designing the facade of Buckingham Palace), the screen originally featured a solid stone wall along Exhibition Road on the museum’s west side topped with a colonnade (through which glimpses of the buildings behind could be seen) and featuring a central arch through which to enter the museum.
The screen, which was damaged during World War II by shrapnel, later had black metal gates fitted in the arch for security. They were topped by a large coat-of-arms.
Under the guidance of architect Amanda Levete and her practice AL_A, the work – which actually involved moving the screen off-site in 2013 and then reassembling its 1375 stones last year – has seen the removal of the wall so that people now have 11 entrances into the courtyard beyond (now redesigned as the porcelain-tiled Sackler Courtyard).
Which means the screen that was once designed to hide what was beyond it has been recast to reveal it instead.
The screen – and the Exhibition Road Quarter project as a whole – is being unveiled to the public today. The V&A is hosting a week long event to celebrate the completion of the project.
WHERE: Aston Webb Screen, Exhibition Road entrance, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington (nearest Tube station is South Kensington); WHEN: Anytime; COST: free; WEBSITE: www.vam.ac.uk
PICTURE: The Aston Webb Screen, the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, designed by AL_A ©Hufton+Crow