New in London: Design Museum Moves to Kensington

(photo by EMILY GOLDFISCHER ) Photo by Emily Goldfischer

On November 24 the new Design Museum will open in an enviable spot at the edge of Holland Park on Kensington High Street, central location closer to London’s top museums, now triple the size of its former location in Shad Thames (south-east London), with a dramatic conversion by famed architect John Pawson. Luxury Travel Advisor got a sneak peek at the building, the current exhibitions and to meet the team behind the transformation of what is likely to be London’s top new destination for culture and education, soon to be the world’s leading institution dedicated to contemporary design and architecture.


Given the theme of the museum, naturally the building itself is striking and has serious design cred—a landmark Grade II listed modernist structure from the 1960s with a blue tinted glass exterior crowned with a sweeping roof in the shape of a parabola—all of which has been meticulously remastered, at a cost of £83 million, by Pawson and a team of from OMA Engineers over the last five years.  Inside is even more dramatic, with a central atrium offering views all the way up to the “iconic hyperbolic paraboloid roof” or in non-technical speak, a super-cool looking curvy triangular ceiling!  Natural light, clever use of marble, light oak, and glass, give the space a breathtakingly open feeling. Galleries, learning spaces, cafes and a shop all are arranged off the main atrium, making it very easy for visitors to navigate and explore.

Deputy director Alice Black commented on our tour, “The goal of the museum is to make design accessible to everyone, but also to challenge the design community.”  Indeed, the permanent collection on the top floor, Designer Maker User, displays nearly 1000 objects, viewed from the perspective of designers, manufacturers and users. We loved the crowd sourced wall of affordable everyday designs that people love.  For the first time ever, thanks to fundraising for the new museum, access to the permanent collection is now free.

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Temporary exhibits will be shown in the galleries on the ground and lower-ground floor.  On now, Fear and Love (through April 23, 2017) eleven installations around designs that inspire fear and love, including robots, fabric and some particularly scary face masks.  The Beazley Designs of the Year, is the other opening exhibit (through February 19, 2017),  this is the ninth installment of the museum’s annual awards. A great exhibit for all ages, the display includes a drinkable book, the last David Bowie album cover, and Adidas sneakers made entirely of recycled plastic bottles. 

photo by Emily Goldfischer


Exciting new eats: on the top floor is Parabola, a restaurant by Prescott & Conran, the team behind popular London cafes Boundary and Albion, which will offer relaxed daytime dining and a rolling program of guest chefs in the evenings.  We didn’t get to try the food, but the views of Holland Park from up there are spectacular.  There’s also a 40-seat juice and coffee bar off the ground floor of the atrium also run by Prescott & Conran.


After the preview, we heartily agree with museum founder Sir Terence Conran, who summed the vision for the new museum so well: “It really does feel like our moment has arrived and that the importance of design to our lives is now truly appreciated. I hope we can now educate, inspire and delight future generations for years to come.”

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