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V&A Dundee

Lumsden Design talks to IC&D Spec about their work on the retail and restaurant offering

Lumsden Design talks to IC&D Spec about their work on the retail and restaurant offering at Scotland’s new V&A Dundee...

From the banks of a historic dockyard in Scotland’s fourth largest city, rises the unmistakable V&A Dundee. The country’s first design museum and the only V&A Museum to be found outside of London. The exterior is inescapably dramatic, becoming an instant landmark on the Dundonian skyline.

Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the building is inspired by the cliffs of north-eastern Scotland and is carving its reputation as an international centre for design at the heart of the city’s revitalised waterfront. With such a dramatic exterior, the project demanded interiors that would be sympathetic to the architecture and strike a balance with the displays and exhibitions within.

Retail design specialists Lumsden Design created café, restaurant and retail spaces for the landmark building which was shortlisted for Shop of the Year in the Museum and Heritage Awards.

Lumsden’s brief was to create a ‘living room for the city’ that would welcome visitors with inspirational spaces that function equally well as meeting places for the local community and museumgoers alike. Both the shop and café play a key role in welcoming visitors into the museum with an open-plan layout adding to the social dimension of the hall.

Destinations in their own right, the shop and café function as integral waypoints for any visit to the galleries and exhibitions. Key to Lumsden’s design of these spaces was functionality and accessibility, considering the requirements of the operating teams and, most importantly, the needs of all visitors. 

A 74-cover café comprises a multi-zone layout with low seating areas, small dining tables and large communal tables in natural finishes that reference the adjacent shop. The retail interior scheme has been designed to complement Kuma’s architectural vision and references Dundee’s shipbuilding heritage. It is a showcase of leading Scottish design displaying local produce and designer pieces curated for V&A visitors.

Drawing on the locality, Lumsden designed bespoke display shelving in natural finishes with turned timber supports lending a distinctly nautical aesthetic to the space. Designed for flexibility, the furniture frames the museum-led product range and can be easily relocated when the main hall is hosting special events.

Overlooking the Tay, Scotland’s longest river, from the second floor is the Tatha Bar and Kitchen. Named after the Scottish Gaelic word for the river, the eatery has 114 covers in the main restaurant with an additional 36 covers on the terrace. Lumsden created a stylish, contemporary scheme that would be adaptable to diners from morning sittings, through lunch and onto a bar-based menu in the evening.

All three areas employ a material palette of European oak, blackened steel and muted textiles. White concrete was mixed with sustainably sourced mussel shells, cast to specialised forms and then polished to reveal a kaleidoscope of whites, blacks, greys and blues. This bespoke concrete pays homage to the River Tay’s endangered freshwater pearl mussel and features in the café, restaurant and shop cash wrap desk.

Five minutes with...

Callum Lumsden, Founder, Lumsden Design


Tell me about Lumsden Design

Lumsden specialises in the creation and realisation of retail and leisure environments for cultural and visitor destinations around the world.  We re-formed in 2010 but our portfolio ranges back almost 25 years mainly in retail and F&B design. We are a team of ten designers, combined with a great network of specialist colleagues, that enables us to not only provide retail and leisure design, but also strategic, digital and branding consultancy.


What five words would you use to describe Lumsden?

Creative, informed, forward thinking, contrary.


Are you noticing any trends in clients’ requirements?

Our clients consistently demand differentiation from their competitors and this requires us to be highly creative and imaginative in our approach. The most forward-looking clients are understanding the necessity of providing a shopping experience that seamlessly aligns with their online presence. What is also becoming a welcome trend is that our clients are involving us at the very inception of their projects and treating design as an integral part of their business strategy.


With so many retail interior designers in the industry, how does Lumsden stand out from the rest?

Our niché in the cultural and visitor destination sector has enabled us to provide our service in a market in which we have a highly specialist knowledge. I can also say, with genuine confidence, that our enthusiasm and curiosity about this sector enables us to constantly refresh our approach to our clients’ projects.


Where do you look for inspiration for store ideas?

We are in a very enviable position to be able to source inspiration from all around the world, due to the international reach which we have with our clients.


Which way do you feel store design will go over the next few years?

Store design will continue to push barriers as much as the market demands. Retailers are seeing the necessity of pushing those barriers as well. Destination retail, brand playgrounds, retail theatre, brand disruption. It’s a great time for imaginative store design.


How important is it for the store to be in trend with the market?

Any new store design must be capable of longevity. The investment from the client is way too high for it to fail because it was following a whimsical trend. Yes, of course, it will be influenced by existing trends in fashion, interiors, art, etc. but the design must be backed up with solid strategic thinking as well.


Do you use just one main contractor, ie. shopfitter?

We are always looking for new contractors and have no allegiance to any single company.


Where do you see shopfitting in the future?

I worry a lot about the shopfitting industry, as the good ones seem to be constantly bombarded with unrealistic budgets and suicidal programmes. The shopfitting skills shortage in the UK is a serious threat and the trend towards management contracts is undermining the entire industry.


What’s important to you when choosing the right shopfitter for the acquired job?

We always look for professional partnerships with our shopfitters. We completely respect what shopfitters are capable of as long as they make the effort to understand our aspirations for a project as well.


Are you finding more and more projects are from clients overseas?

70% of our current business is outside of the UK. We are currently working on projects in USA, Hong Kong, Holland and Japan and a recent trip to Barcelona has proved extremely promising as well.

Lumsden Design