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Brief Published: 25 Jan 2012

London’s Design Museum on the Move


The Southbank’s loss will be Kensington’s gain as London’s Design Museum formally unveiled plans for its new home at the former Commonwealth Institute in West London yesterday.

According to Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum, the plan – in no uncertain terms – is to create the “world’s leading museum of design and architecture”. Supporting that boast, the new venue will have three times more exhibition space than its current location in which to showcase its extensive collection of iconic design objects, and will open in 2014.

Built in the 1960s, the Commonwealth Institute’s interiors are being renovated by revered British architect John Pawson. The most dynamic architectural element of the existing Grade II listed building, which Pawson’s design will work around, is its hyperbolic paraboloid roof (or saddle roof) – a feature that will reach 16 metres above the heads of museum visitors on the top floor, and flood the museum with light.

The Design Museum’s new base will position it closer to London’s museum hotspot, with the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum and Natural History Museum all close by. Although this creates more of a one-stop cultural shop for pavement-pounding tourists, it also strips the less affluent Southbank area of one of its major landmarks. However, Sir Terence Conran, British design industry icon and founder of the museum, believes that it will also be a positive move for British retail, attracting more consumers into the adjacent shops of High Street Kensington.

In addition to the Design Museum, the project also encompasses landscaping of the surrounding gardens and park land, as well as residential developments designed by Dutch architectural practice OMA (see OMA/Progress: Inside the Architectural Powerhouse). This will include three blocks of housing near to the museum.

Design Museum

John Pawson