Design Museum, London, United Kingdom


In January 2012, it was confirmed that the Design Museum in London will be moved from its current Thames riverside southbank location near Tower Bridge to a new place in Kensington. The new site is the former Commonwealth Institute (CI), Grade II* listed building, built in the 1960s. It will be completely renovated to house the Design Museum, established in 1989.

The current museum building in Shad Thames was a former warehouse built in the 1940s. It is an international modernist style building exhibiting all forms of contemporary arts including products, fashion, architecture, graphics and industrial designs.

The relocation will increase the exhibition space threefold when it is opened to public in 2014. It is also expected to double the number of visitors to about 500,000 a year. The project is estimated to cost about £80m.

Architects and consultants involved with the Design Museum

Interiors of the CI building, now known as The Parabola, were redesigned by John Pawson. The firm is assisted by the original building's architecture member Lord Cunliffe and structural engineer James Sutherland.

In 2008, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) was selected among five other architectural firms to design the surrounding residential community comprising three apartments - High Street Building, Park Building and Garden Building.

Arup is the structural and services engineer, sustainable and transport consultant. Other consultants involved in the site regeneration include landscaping architect West 8, planning consultant DP9, environmental consultant RPS and construction consultant Mace.

Commonwealth Institute building

"The new site is the former Commonwealth Institute (CI), Grade II* listed building, built in the 1960s. It will be completely renovated to house the Design Museum."

The original CI building (now known as The Parabola) is located on a 3.25acre site adjacent to Holland Park on the High Street, Kensington. It was designed by Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall and Partners (RMJM).

The iconic hyperbolic paraboloid copper roof, rising 82ft above the ground, is one of the largest single span roof structures in the world. It has been vacant since 2002.

In 2007 the developers, Chelsfield Partners and the IIchester Estate purchased and proposed revitalising of the Commonwealth Institute site. Early plans, by OMA, included several modifications to the Parabola interiors and construction of about six to nine-storey tall residential structures at the administration block.

They were submitted to the Royal Kensington and Chelsea Boroughs in April 2009. The plans attracted much criticism and were revised in August 2009 to include lower height residential blocks (six floors) and fewer modifications to interiors of the heritage building.

The new plans were approved by the Kensington and Chelsea council members and English Heritage in September 2009 and planning permission was granted in July 2010.

New Design Museum and surroundings development plans

Renovation and alteration of the five-storey exhibition and conference building will create 100,000ft² space for the new museum. The original structure and roof of the Parabola will be retained. The roof will be supported by piles, temporary trusses and beams during internal construction.

"The project has already raised about 60% of the targeted £44.6m funds. Conran Foundation donated £17.5m towards the project in June 2011."

The existing central dais and floors of the exhibition building will be demolished to create a void. It will provide uninterrupted access and orientation along the museum.

Central atrium will lead the visitors to the framed roof structure and the staircase to the mezzanine levels of the museum. The new design will reflect the original interiors in terms of providing an entire view of the building from the entrance foyer.

The ground and basement levels will use palette of materials such as hardwood and concrete terrazzo for floors, while the other level floors and wall panels will use hardwood.

The north and east façades will have new openings for more transparency. The ground level foyer will have glazed entrances. Green and open pedestrian access will be provided from the Holland Park into the museum.

The regeneration project will create two public piazzas and enhance the western end of Kensington High Street and make it a new cultural destination.

Financing London's Design Museum project

The project has already raised about 60% of the targeted £44.6m funds. Conran Foundation donated £17.5m towards the project in June 2011.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has funded about £4.9m. The project will also receive funds from The Hans and Marit Rausing Charitable Trust, The Wolfson Foundation, The Atkin Foundation, The Sir Siegmund Warburg's Voluntary Settlement and several other individual donors. Dr Mortimer & Theresa Sackler Foundation will fund the library.

Facilities at the Grade II* listed building

Ground floor of the Parabola will house the main exhibition space, design store, bookshop and a café. The first floor will accommodate the library, open storage area and learning and administration departments.

Top floors will house the permanent Studio Myerscough exhibition collections, staff room, restaurant and event space. A new basement level will be constructed for the auditorium, another exhibition space, kitchen, workshops, back of house and curatorial spaces.