The New Design Museum opens in Kensington
London’s Design Museum has relatively humble origins. When it was started by designer Terence Conran and journalist Stephen Bayley, it was tucked away in the basement of the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1989 in moved to an ad-hoc building: a converted banana warehouse on the Thames.
This week, however, the museum has unveiled a new home. It is now based in a multi-million-pound, state-of-the-art development next to Holland Park in leafy West London. The new site boasts triple the exhibition space of its previous location. Ingeniously, for a field which is closely tied to consumerism and big business, the Design Museum’s upgrade has been funded by a collaboration with the local council and a property developer. The result is a stylish building in a fantastic location, flanked by a set of luxury flats which add a slightly strange tone to the experience.
The museum is set in the converted Commonwealth Institute, a design classic in its own right. The interior was envisioned by the well-known minimalist designer John Pawson. It’s beautifully done, but somehow lacks imagination. With walls of understated oak panelling, it feels a little like a city hotel or an expensive airport private lounge.
This is only thrown into sharper relief by the groundbreaking and daring designs evident in many of the exhibits on show. Some of these objects have become so eponymous that we often don’t even think of them as design any more. A Model T Ford, for example, is exhibited alongside a Tesla driverless car, showcasing innovation and design across decades. There are some stunning examples of design gems from the more expected areas of furniture and fashion, but also some brilliant objects which show the development of sound and technology, such as a My First Sony tapedeck and early Apple Mac computer.
It’s great to see such a wide range of objects on show in what is undoubtedly a beautiful, if slightly underwhelming, building. Hopefully it will bring the wonders of design to the attention of the wider public and shed some light on this under-examined field.
Photos: Silvia Sternardi
The new Design Museum is now open, for further information visit here.