The Victoria and Albert Museum features a courtyard in the center of the structure. This courtyard is Renaissance in style with variations of Morrish influence found in elements of the architecture’s facade such as the courtyard’s mosaics, the red color of the brick, and the Spanish roof tiles. This Renaissance – Morrish style is in direct contrast to the remaining structure which is Victorian in style. This contrast proves that the structure values English and Western tradition over other forms of art and cultural representation.
Constructing the structure’s exterior in a victorian style, and the interior courtyard in Renaissance – Morrish, creates an interesting dynamic that exemplifies the museum’s views on the hierarchical ordering of different styles. The structure’s exterior makes the claim that the Victorian architectural style is an acceptable representation of the museum as a whole to the general public. For, the facade acts as a viewer’s first glimpse into the values, concerns, and inner workings of the institution itself. By validating the Victorian style as an acceptable representation of the Victoria and Albert Museum to the general public, it makes the claim that the style itself promotes a respectable public opinion.
Victorian architecture promotes a respectable public opinion because it’s a style of architecture that was common in London during the time in which the museum was built. Additionally, the style is associated with a national English heritage considering that it is in reference to structures built during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Essentially, the exterior of the museum speaks to the idea that what is acceptable for representing the museum to the public is that which is common and congruent with a Western and English past. Why make the interior of the structure Renaissance – Morrish then?
By placing the Renaissance – Morrish within the interior of the structure, the Museum states that this type of architecture, unlike Victorian architecture, is an element of the “other.” It is something that can only be captured in a small portion of the structure’s facade. Additionally, it must be kept within the interior to still be accessible to the public but not the main focus of the public’s experience with the structure. It creates a hierarchy of architectural styles by valuing the contemporary English and Western style over other styles.
The contrast between the courtyard and the remaining structure is evidence of the ways in which the Victoria and Albert Museum focus primarily on western style and culture because it acts as a responsible representation of the institution as a whole, while other styles and cultures are only allowed to be featured in small doses and not at the expense of English and Western tradition.
This narrative presented by the architecture of the museum is deeply rooted in the rest of the museum. Primarily, western pieces are displayed in the museum. Pieces that are seen as being “other” are only allowed in small doses. The question raised by both the architecture of the museum and the pieces within the structure is, what gives English and Western pieces and architecture priority over other forms of art, design, and cultural representation?