Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, London

Designed by: Casson Mann
For client: V&A Floor area: 1000.00 M² Year of completion: 2018
Submitted for: Exhibition of the Year

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© Hufton + Crow

About the Project

Commissioned to create the V&A’s most recent, and hugely successful exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed & Style, Casson Mann have drawn on their imaginative skill as both interior and exhibition designers to transform the museum’s temporary galleries into spaces grand enough to celebrate these design icons, evoking their scale, engineering power and glamour.

Spanning two of the V&A’s temporary galleries, with over 250 objects on display (including ship models, paintings, sculpture, decorative panels, furniture, fashion and accessories, posters, photographs and film) the exhibition traces the evolution of ocean travel, interior design, engineering innovations and the legacy of the glamorous on-board lifestyle made famous by iconic liners such as the Queen Mary and the Normandie.

Following five narrative themes (Promoting Liners, Politics of Style, Engineering, Life on Board and the Metaphor of the Liner), Casson Mann has woven a rich visitor experience about embarking on a voyage: a journey that starts dockside, followed by boarding, exploring the ship’s public spaces, finding oneself below decks in the engine rooms, pool-side up on deck looking out to sea, to finally enjoy an evening under the stars.

Due to the huge success of the show and the spectacular reviews, the exhibition toured to V&A Dundee for their opening exhibition.

What’s unique about it

Casson Mann’s design uses theatrical techniques and the power of suggestion to support and give context to the collections. The challenge for the design team was how to generate a sense of scale of the grand salons, and evoke sumptuous style in relatively small galleries on a tight budget.

Drawing on the interior designers’ full toolkit, the team came up with a range of solutions: removing existing lighting tracks and installing much higher ceilings to exploit the full height and draw the eye upwards, dividing spaces with mirrored walls to double-up volumes and re-create a ship’s internal symmetry and scale. The mirrors also duplicate single objects in a way that suggests the scale and opulence of many.

As well as this manipulation of space, the dramatic use of film and multimedia has a big role to play in the impact of the exhibition. With growing expertise in the creative direction and development of multimedia, Casson Mann’s scope of work was extended to produce all the large-scale installations. These include: a cinematic mid-atlantic panorama, complete with passing ships, that takes visitor’s imagination beyond the confines of the space to the horizon; and the ‘Grande Descente’, an opulent evocation of the grand staircase, with actors dressed for dinner filmed using time-lapse and layering techniques.

Casson Mann was delighted to collaborate with Lightmap and theatre designer and director, Netia Jones on the exhibition.

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Location of project:
Casson Mann

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