<< back to Insights

Welcome To London’s New Cultural Cathedral Of Design


After five-years in construction the Design Museum is almost ready to open its doors – and as JoJo Iles discovers at the press preview, it really is a magnificent cathedral dedicated to contemporary design.

For Design Museum founder Sir Terence Conran the museum’s new home, situated on Kensington High Street, feels like – ‘our moment has arrived and that the importance of design to our lives is now truly appreciated.’  You can see he is emotionally moved and excited, and so he should be. As you walk in the modernist building that has been sensitively restructured by John Pawson you cannot fail but to be impressed. The dramatic hyperbolic paraboloid roof, the oak-lined atrium, the innovative use of space and light. It is all rather delicious to see and experience.

The Design Museum started its humble beginnings as the Boilerhouse project in the basement of the V&A. Sir Conran then developed the museum concept and opened in a former banana-ripening warehouse in Shad Thames in 1989. For over a quarter of a century the museum enticed us with exhibitions from the likes of Dame Zaha Hadid, Christian Louboutin, Dieter Rams and Sir Paul Smith to name but a few, covering a broad range of design from architecture to fashion, graphics to product.

The new building now triples the museum size to 10,000sqm and includes two major temporary gallery spaces, a free permanent exhibition, a café/restaurant overlooking Holland Park, a shop, auditorium studios, library, archive and new learning facilities.

Sir Conran comments: ‘With three times the space and John Pawson’s beautiful architectural work I hope we can now educate, inspire and delight future generations for years to come and truly make a difference to the world around us.’

John Pawson adds: ‘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.’

Displayed on the first floor is a series of photographs by fashion photographer Koto Bolofo that document the construction process. Using radical engineering techniques, the original concrete floors were removed – a process that entailed propping the roof on a temporary steel structure!

The learning centre within the space has been made possible by the Swarovski Foundation, chairperson Nadja Swarovski commented: “We are thrilled to be a part of the Design Museum’s new home and new vision. The Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning is the embodiment of the Foundation’s commitment to fostering culture and creativity, and John Pawson’s stunning design is the perfect backdrop for a design-led education programme that will nurture the next generation of talent.”

Along with a tour of the building press were treated to previews of the permanent and temporary displays that will open to the public on the 24th November 2016:

1. Designer Maker User – free permanent display (taster below – design items nominated by the public from 25 countries)


2. Fear and Love – reactions to a complex world (eleven installations by a selection of the world’s leading designers – the image below is of a Vesper ‘death mask’ created using ultra-high definition 3D printing designed by Neri Oxman.)


3. Nominees for Beazley Designs of the Year – (annual exhibition and awards celebrating the best designs put forward, now in its ninth year – below Adidas x Parley running shoe made from recycled ocean plastic.)


Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: ‘I’m delighted that many more Londoners and visitors to the capital will now be able to celebrate London’s place in the world of design and enjoy the Design Museum’s outstanding exhibitions in its brand new home in Kensington. I’m so pleased that the facilities will be available to more school children than ever before – inspiring the designers, engineers and artists of the future. I hope many Londoners will take the time to visit this fantastic hub of imagination and creativity.’

Opening on the 24th November 2016 the new museum is expected to attract 650,000 visitors in its first year.



By JoJo Iles

<< back to Insights