FIVE days to go. This Saturday Philip Long goes from being the director of a construction project to the director of a museum. When the V&A Dundee opens its doors to the public this Saturday, Long can finally put all the issues of budgets and construction challenges and infrastructure that he’s been dealing with for the last seven years behind him and start to concentrate on running a cultural institution.

And what an institution. The V&A Dundee, as well as being a show-stopping piece of architecture courtesy of the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, is also a keynote building in the future of the city in which it is based, part of Dundee’s long-term plans for the waterfront .

As a result, it’s difficult to imagine a building in Scotland that will open with more hype, hope and razzmatazz.

“The opening of the V&A Dundee is a big moment,” agrees Long. “It’s a big moment for the institution, but it’s a big moment in the life of Dundee. And I get a sense that there’s excitement about the project much further afield than that. So, we want to make sure that it’s celebrated in a pretty spectacular way.”

Over and above the celebrations that will accompany the opening (Primal Scream in Slessor Gardens on Friday night and all that), the museum is also tasked with creating an economic uplift for the city, in effect Dundee’s very own “Bilbao effect.” No small task in a city that has been hit in recent decades by all the typical problems blighting post-industrial cities.

When we speak the opening is still a few weeks away. Long is sitting in a Portakabin across from the museum’s staff entrance, discussing the past, present and future of this project. When he first came to Dundee in 2011 the city’s waterfront had a long way to go. Where we are sitting, he points out, was the site of the city’s brutalist swimming pool. He used to go himself and be “horrified and exhilarated” by the fumes, he says.

All change. Across the way the museum remains sealed off from prying eyes but the fit-out is complete, the installation of the exhibitions and displays very advanced and the restaurant and café ready to go. It’s a Thursday in mid-August. “On Monday we have all our visitor assistants starting. That is exciting,” says Long.

“About two years we sat down as a team and said what needs to be achieved by the opening day and worked back from that to see exactly what needed to happen in relation to everything else that needed to be done and who needed to do it. And we are on track with that plan.”

As you would expect, Long is an articulate spokesman for his museum. Married with two boys, he’s a young-looking 52, who’s been working on this project since 2011. “I’m a little greyer than I was seven years ago,” he says. “I need a haircut. But I’ve been busy.”

Well, indeed. The construction of the museum has been a huge financial and technical challenge. Kengo Kuma’s original plans had to be reined in when the tenders for the building came in much higher than expected; almost double the original £45m. And though more money was found for its construction (the final figure was £80.11m) it still proved a complex and testing build.

Not that Long was ever in any doubt that it would be completed. “It’s been developed in quite a small city, comparatively, in difficult years of political complexity and economic uncertainty. And I think the prospect of a new V&A here was such an exciting prospect that I never thought it wasn’t going to happen.”

Now it is on his shoulders to make it a success, of course. Is he ready for the challenge? The size of it is certainly clear to him.

“Previously, I was a curator at the National Galleries of Scotland with a responsibility for managing elements of that. But I think there is not much that can prepare anybody for the scale of this project,” he admits

But that, adds Long, is also the thrill of it. “To have the responsibility to develop a new design institution in Scotland that will take very seriously its role to help people understand why design is important, that is going to look at the amazing design creativity of this country, that can bring international exhibitions to Scotland in that wonderful building, and be part of the V&A family, then that is an amazing prospect.”

The question might be what does that all entail? Or, to put it more bluntly, what does a director do? He breaks his answer into pre and post opening. “The responsibility of the director during the development phase is to develop a sense of ambition and vision for the project. What is it? What is it going to be?”

And, having done so, he adds, get that vision across to the people working on the building, its stakeholders and the general public.

His job will now change, Long says. “The role will be to make sure that it does fulfil those ambitions and its intention to be an institution that helps make people understand why design is important in all our lives is fulfilled, that it creates opportunities to get more people involved, and that it makes a contribution not just to Dundee but to the country more widely.”

What he wants is a building that is welcoming to everyone in Dundee. “Museums can be intimidating places or seen as places for an elite. We have developed V&A Dundee to challenge that.”

In what way? Outreach programmes, talks, forming young people’s groups, he explains. “We have engaged with over 100,000 people since 2012 and many of those are here in Dundee.”

In a parallel universe Long could have been exhibiting in the museum rather than running it. Or even building the thing.

“I almost became an architect when I was at school. I had a place to do architecture so maybe doing V&A Dundee is fulfilling some of these early ambitions,” he says.

Having grown up in Edinburgh Long actually studied sculpture at art school. “I trained as an artist, but I very quickly became interested in museums and galleries and how they could make a difference to people.”

After studying in England, he returned to Scotland where he worked for the Fine Art Society in Glasgow, before getting a job as a junior curator at the National Galleries of Scotland. He then worked his way up to a senior position.

“I had a chance to create exhibitions and work with artists and get involved in some major projects, like the development of the former Dean orphanage into the Dean Gallery, now Modern Two. I also looked after the development of Charles Jencks’s Landform and I worked on the development of the Artist Rooms project specifically so it could be shared across the country.”

The V&A Dundee is of a different order, it must be said. Because there is so much riding on it. But Long reckons it will deliver because the city wants it to. Needs it to, even.

“When I came here what I sensed was there was a real enthusiasm and energy for making a change. But in terms of the physicality of the city there was much to be done on that. The V&A Dundee is a complete new development contributing to the economic future of the city.

“But what I’ve also seen is a sort of change in energy and sense of being able to get things done. Dundee applied to be UK City of Culture. It lost to Hull. It came a very close second, but it didn’t sit back and commiserate. Shortly afterwards it was successful in being awarded the title of Unesco City of Creative Design.

“What I’ve seen here in the city is one success leads to a greater ambition. There’s that sense in the city of: ‘We get things done here.’ I think that is really building confidence here.”

In this Saturday’s Herald Magazine, the inside story of the V&A Dundee