Design lovers have always been on the lookout for displays of iconic pieces within art museums as at the Stedelijk in Amsterdam or design museums such as the Designmuseo in Helsinki or the Triennale in Milan. In London, design has been associated with the Design Museum in Shad Thames near London Bridge, and with its co-founder Sir Terence Conran, since 1989. On November 24th, London’s Design Museum will enter a new phase with its relocation to the iconic Commonwealth building in the borough of Kensington.
After a total refurbishment of its interiors, designed by John Pawson, and of the whole site designed by Dutch architecture studio OMA based on the vision of Rem Koolhaas, the new Design Musuem will open the doors to a free permanent display of its collection for the first time in the museum’s history. The display will include the Vespa Clubman designed by Corradino d’Ascanio; Ettore Sottsass and Perry King’s Valentine typewriter for Olivetti; the GRiD ‘Compass’ the first laptop computer by Bill Moggridge; among other iconic pieces. The exhibitions’ program will showcase design in every form, including fashion, product, architecture, industrial design, new technologies and innovation, and graphic design. The museum’s opening exhibition will be ‘Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World’ curated by Justin McGuirk. ‘Fear and Love’ will explore our hopes and doubts about the pace and impact of change through newly commissioned installations.
The Design Museum has also announced partnerships with Vitra, whose furniture will be used throughout the museum’s public spaces and office areas; and with Phaidon, who will publish books to accompany the museum’s major exhibitions, as well as a new guide to and history of the Design Museum.
The project received an unprecedented financial support recently. In fact, the development of the whole site was donated and covered the cost of refurbishing the shell and core of the building for a total value of £83 million. Then the Conran Foundation has gifted the proceeds of over £7 millions from the sale of the Shad Thames building to the capital project in support of the construction of the new museum, and each of the seventeen trustees of the museum made a donation to support the project as well. On top, the Arts Council England assigned a capital grant of £3 million and the Heritage Lottery Fund gave a grant of £4.9 millions. Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum, has therefore many reasons to be pleased with after receiving such a strong support for the project and finally with the imminent opening of the new building. About the mission of the new space, he says that ‘Design is the way to ask questions about what technology is doing to us, to explore how the world will look and work as well as to define new aesthetic approaches. This move will redefine the Design Museum as the most inspiring, exciting and engaging contemporary design and architecture museum in the world.’
Sir Terence Conran, founder of the Design Museum, said that ‘all our dreams and ambitions to create the best and most important design museum in the world will become a step closer to reality. It will make my long lifetime in design absolutely worthwhile.’ Design lovers should look forward to the opening of what might be their next destination. We do so, too.
Review by Romina Provenzi
On 24 November 2016, the Design Museum will be opening its doors on Kensington High Street.