The Design Museum opens its new building in Kensington this week. Jessica Cargill Thompson had a look around.
Since Sir Terence Conran and Stephen Bayley opened the Butler’s Wharf incarnation of the Design Museum in 1989, it is fair to say that the capital’s cultural kudos has undergone a seismic shift. London is no longer the shabby relation of Paris, Milan and Barcelona, but a design force that attracts admiring glances from around the world.
‘A dream that has been a long time coming’
Having at least a decade ago grown out of its banana-ripening warehouse downstream of what could reasonably be considered London’s tourist map, it is with palpable relief to all involved, not least Sir Terrence himself, that the museum finally moves into its expanded new Kensington home this month. At last Thursday’s press launch, Conran described the moment as ‘a dream that for me has been a long time materialising; it allows all our dreams and ambitions to come true and promote a world class space that’s truly international.’
Reminding everyone of his own part in London’s embracing of contemporary design, and the need for Government to get behind it, he said: ‘It really does feel like our moment has arrived and that the importance of design to our lives and our economy is now truly appreciated.’ And to shared laughter: ‘Moving the Design Museum to Kensington is the most important moment of my career in design…so far.’
Commonwealth Institute revival
The new £83m home marries the showpiece architecture of the former Commonwealth Institute, a 1960s Grade II*-listed building by RMJM, famed for its hyperbolic paraboloid (saddle-shaped) roof, with the sleek interiors styling of John Pawson, and interventions by a number of leading architectural and engineering practices, most notably OMA, Arup and Allies and Morrison for the structure and exteriors.