The Design Museum opens in its new home on Kensington High Street, west London. The museum has now tripled to 10,000sqm from its previous premise in Shad Thames, south-east London. 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.
OMA, Allies and Morrison and Arup have restored the building’s spectacular concrete roof and distinctive facade. Remodeling the interior, John Pawson has created a series of calm, atmospheric spaces ordered around an oak-lined atrium, incorporating key elements from the original structure. The new Design Museum is an outstanding example of interdisciplinary collaboration.
The original façade has been replaced with a double glazed skin, significantly improving insulation standards and allowing daylight 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, visitors find themselves in a central atrium with striking views up to the iconic hyperbolic paraboloid roof. The stunning concrete roof spans the length of the building, rising on the two opposing corners to create a manta ray-like structure above. Galleries, learning spaces, café, events space and a shop are arranged like an opencast mine around the main atrium, allowing visitors to navigate the space with ease and to discover everything the building has to offer by simply walking up its oak staircases.
The building has two generously proportioned temporary galleries, one on the ground floor, the other on the museum’s lower level. Both featuring double-height spaces and textured concrete columns, these galleries will display up to seven temporary exhibitions per year, priced between £10 and £18. The double-height basement also features a dedicated museum collection store with a glass window, allowing visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of pieces not on display.
The 200-seat Bakala Auditorium completes the basement and allows the museum to expand its public programme and evening talks. The ground floor houses the Design Museum’s coffee and juice counter, catered by Prescott & Conran, seating up to 40 people and serving brunch and snacks. Located opposite is the Design Museum Shop, featuring Vitsoe shelving units and the building’s original stained glass windows by Keith New.
The oak staircases form the circulatory heart of Pawson’s design. Strip LEDs line the handrails and banisters, adding theatre to the experience of moving round the building, as visitors follow the light towards the top floor and the soaring underside of the roof. Bench-style leather seating across a section of the main staircase provides a comfortable place for visitors to pause and take in their surroundings.
A key element of the Pawson vocabulary, a wooden bench with concealed lighting spans one side of the Weston Mezzanine. The bench sits in front of a series of marble panels conserved from the original building, which before that had previously been installed in the Imperial Institute in1857. On the first floor visitors will find new spaces dedicated to learning. The Sackler Library and Archive features a collection of books and drawings in handsome oak bookcases that incorporate purpose-designed seating.
The main feature of the first floor is the new Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning, with hands-on workshops, as well as digital learning studios and the Design Studio. The new learning facilities expect to see 60,000 learners pass through their doors every year. The main attraction on the museum’s top floor is the new permanent collection display, Designer Maker User. For the first time in the museum’s history, this exhibition will be free to visit. It will display almost 1000 objects, viewed from the perspectives of designer, manufacturer and user, as well as a crowd-sourced wall.
Parabola, a new restaurant named after the museum’s signature roof, sits on the top floor of the museum and offers unprecedented views of Holland Park. The restaurant will function as a relaxed café during the day and be transformed in the evening by a rolling programme of guest chefs. Designed by Universal Design Studio, the space features customised archive furniture by Vitra and Artek, a sculptural polished pewter bar by Benchmark and lights by Flos. Materials, textures and colours reference the neighbouring park and create a connection between interior and exterior. Source by Design Museum.
- Location: Kensington High Street, London, UK
- Design Team: John Pawson, Arup, ChapmanBDSP, Turner & Townsend, Gardiner & Theobald LLP, Tricon Limited
- Signage: Cartlidge Levene
- Restaurant: Universal Design Studio, Prescott & Conran
- Display installation: Studio Myerscough
- Developer: Chelsfield Developments Ltd in collaboration with the Ilchester Estates
- Developer’s design team: OMA, Allies and Morrison, West 8, Arup and AECOM
- Developer’s contractor: MACE
- Fit out contractor: Willmott Dixon Interiors
- Exhibition installation: Elmwood
- Flooring and oak panels: Dinesen
- Retail: Vitra
- Bars: Benchmark
- Furniture: Vitra
- Lighting: Concord
- Area: 10,000sqm
- Year: 2016
- Photographs: Gareth Gardner, Gravity Road, Helene Binet, Luke Hayes, Courtesy of Design Museum
Article by Marco Rinaldi