Garden Café at V&A Museum

Reed Watts Architects, London, 2019


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A new cafe space for a London museum.

Going from conception to completion in less than four months, the elegant steel structure defines a new café space and seating at the heart of the museum campus The V&A in South Kensington hosts over 4m visitors every year and its main café enjoys an outstanding reputation as one of the most beautiful in London.

The brief for Reed Watts was to deliver a café in the Madejski Garden that would be met with a similar reception, replacing an existing structure that was no longer fit for purpose.

Inspired by the traditional garden pergola and taking the rhythm of the existing building as a starting point, the structure was designed so that it would sit lightly within the garden. The 'in the round' layout features a dual fronted counter that provides more space for display and sales than was previously possible, improving the experience for customers and improving the volume of sales.

The materials for the project were selected to be robust but beautiful in their own right, reflecting the status of the museum. A series of hand painted, green vitreous enamel panels run around the base of the café counter, their colour and subtle variation chosen to complement the beautiful terracotta tones of the Grade I-listed building. An aluminium coil mesh curtain sits above the enamel and is drawn across the counter at night when the cafe is closed.

Designed in three months and built in just over two weeks for the operator Benugo, the project represents a successful collaboration between clients, designers and suppliers. To deliver the project on time and with minimal disruption to the museum, the majority of the café’s elements were fabricated off site and installation was carefully planned to occur overnight.


  • Begun: May 2018
  • Completed: Jan 2019
  • Floor area: 125m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £223,000
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Feb 2018
  • Procurement: Exchange of letters
  • Address: Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL, United Kingdom

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