Plans for the Design Museum's move to the Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington were unveiled today. The Grade 2 listed building closed since 2002 is set to be the new home for the museum, currently based in the Shad Thames area in SE1.
The restoration project will place the Design Museum within Kensington’s cultural cluster, amongst the Natural History Museum, the Royal College, Science Museum and poignantly the V&A.
At a press conference to showcase the museum's plans, Design Museum founder Terence Conran remembered the relevance of this location. He talked about convincing the V&A on the importance of exhibiting modern design in the 80s.
"We did an exhibition called Coca Cola: The Making of a Brand [in 1986]," he said. "It had so many visitors – more than the rest of the whole V&A – that there was an absolute uprising by the [V&A's] curators."
Conran explained how these early exhibitions highlighted the potential success of a museum celebrating industrial design – as opposed to decorative arts – and went on to put his concept into reality in 1989 by creating the Design Museum in its current location. The museum has outgrown its original site, and yhe plans for the new museum aim to double its visitors to half a million per year and triple its exhibition space.
The Design Museum's plans to place design at the centre of contemporary culture, with exhibitions, educating spaces and a design reference library. This new permanent home will sit within the skin of an existing building, the former Commonwealth Institute.
"There is particularly nice symbolism in the fact that in making this legacy for future generations, we are saving a work of iconic architecture," architect John Pawson explains "I hope that the result will demosnstrate that you don’t need to demolish old buildings to make wonderful new public space."
An impression of how the building will appear once the Design Museum moves in
Terence Conran, founder of the Design Museum
The press release was held at the Odeon cinema across the road from the new site, and the Design Museum cleverly provided branded popcorn boxes for the guest- Nice touch..
Image: OMA and Chelsfield
Above images by Alex Morris Visualisation, Design by John Pawson Ltd
Photos: Johann Chan
The Design Museum says it estimates to open in the new site in 2014. The museum's fundraising target is £44.66 million which it has secured 60 per cent. The Conran foundation has donated £17, the Heritage Lottery fund has made a first stage grant towards and application, other donations include the Wolfson foundation, the Sir Siegmund Warburgs’s Voluntary Settlement, the Hans and Marit Rausing Charitable trust, the Atkin foundation, The Dr Mortimer & Theresa Sackler foundation plus a number of individual donors.