The Design Museum has reopened in its new Kensington High Street home after a multi-million pound development project. The new building has tripled the museum’s size to 10,000sqm and includes two major temporary gallery spaces, a free permanent collection display and a restaurant overlooking Holland Park as well as an auditorium, studios, a library, archive and new learning facilities.
Founded by Sir Terence Conran, the Design Museum opened in 1989 in a former banana ripening warehouse on Shad Thames. Expected to attract 650,000 visitors in its first year, the museum combines architecture, product design, technology, graphics and fashion to investigate the form, function and meaning of the world around us.
Housed in a landmark Grade II listed modernist building from the 1960s, the development project is the culmination of a five-year construction process. Following an investment of £83m, the structure has been transformed for its future role as the world’s leading institution dedicated to contemporary design and architecture. The Design Museum could previously be found in Shad Thames.
Extensive work both internally and externally was carried out under the design direction of architect John Pawson. Beginning in 2012, the project saw some of the world’s leading designers, manufacturers and patrons come together and it now stands out as an outstanding example of interdisciplinary collaboration.
Some of the work undertaken included the removal of the original concrete floors using radical engineering techniques – a process that entailed propping the roof on a temporary steel structure 20 metres above the ground.
The original façade has also been replaced with a double glazed skin, significantly improving insulation standards and allowing natural light into the interior. The new exterior has been meticulously detailed to resemble the original blue skin of the building, with matching mullions and a fritted pattern of printed dots.
A new public plaza complete with fountains has been installed at the entrance to the museum, within a landscape designed by West 8. Inside the museum, contracting, residential development and property support company Willmott Dixon turned vision into reality.
When entering the space, visitors find themselves in a central atrium with striking views up to the hyperbolic paraboloid roof that has been designed to create a manta ray-like structure above. The galleries, learning spaces, café, events spaces and gift shop have been arranged like an opencast mine around the main atrium making visitor navigation simple.
Both galleries feature double-height space and texture concrete columns with each displaying up to seven temporary exhibitions per year. Those looking to make a day of their visit can enjoy drinks, snacks and brunch at the ground floor coffee and juice counter.
Architect John Pawson commented:
“There are ‘moments’ in the building that I relish every time I walk around, but I think it is really the way everything comes together – the new and the old – that gives me the greatest pleasure. I hope the Design Museum shows people that you don’t have to tear down and start from scratch to make exciting new cultural spaces.”