Ignored London landmark undergoes huge makeover
From Walkmans and iPhones to classic cars and robotic arms, London’s newly opened DesignMuseum will offer a journey through the world of contemporary design.
The museum in London’s plush Kensington district is the culmination of a $103-million project to transform a once derelict building.
“Our ambition is to create somewhere which would be a world center for design and a place to start conversations about the world of design,” museum director Deyan Sudjic said last week at a media preview.
The museum contains almost 1,000 objects in its permanent exhibition — among them a London underground train, a Ford Model T car, Gucci tennis shoes andChristian Louboutin’s Pigalle high-heels — covering everything from fashion to engineering.
The museum’s new site is nearly three times the size of its previous home, which was a former banana warehouse in southeast London.
British designer Terence Conran, who founded the museum, hailed it as a “magnificent new cathedral of design” and said the move was “the most important moment of my career”.
“It allows all our dreams and ambitions for the museum to come true, to create a world class space, truly international, with the size and scope for the serious promotion and celebration of design and architecture in this country,” he said ahead of the public opening on Nov 24.
“I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world that comes up to this museum at the moment.”
‘New life and purpose’
The 1960s modernist building — formerly London’s Commonwealth Institute — was refurbished by architect John Pawson in a fiveyear project, retaining its striking roof.
Luqman Arnold, chairman of the museum’s trustees, says the transformation of a “derelict and unloved building had “given a neglected London icon a new life and purpose”.
“It will provide an international showcase for the many design skills at which Britain excels and a creative center promoting innovation, nurturing the next generation of design talent,” he said.
The museum’s first temporary exhibition, entitled Fear and Love— reactions to a complex world— comprises 11 installations by international designers includingKenyaHara of Japan, American-Israeli Neri Oxman and British Turkish-Cypriot Hussein Chalayan.
The Pan European Living Room, an installation by theOMAarchitecture practice, is furnished with a piece of design from each of the 28 EU member states, proposing that our notion of domestic interiors has been shaped by European trade and cooperation.
Chief curator Justin McGuirk describes the exhibition as “a laboratory of ideas, and a place for absorbing how the world is changing”.
“Design is a very broad and versatile discipline today and it’s dealing with a lot of complex issues — that’s what this show is about.” Chinese fashion brand Shenbai showcased its new collection earlier this month at China FashionWeek. Known for its couture wedding gowns, the brand combines Western tailoring with traditional Chinese craftsmanship. Its 2017 spring/summer collection is inspired by 17th-century Paris.
Left: A woman looks at exhibits at the Design Museum during its opening in Kensington, London, on Nov 17. Right: A general view of the same museum.