You know you’re getting old when you can remember three incarnations of the same museum. Back in 1981 the basement of the V&A played host to the Boiler House display of modern design, then in 1989 Sir Terence upped sticks and took the collection to Shad Thames; the Design Museum was born. Now, after five years of construction work and £83 million, it has moved again this time to the old Commonwealth Institute building on Kensington High Street.
Not that much of the Grade II* remains apart from the hyperbolic paraboloid roof (you know what one of those looks like, don’t you!). John Pawson has had the exterior clad, the floors taken out and forests of blond oak installed. The central atrium affords views up to that hyperbolic paraboloid roof, with the staircases snaking round the edge of the space. Stand at the bottom and in the top left hand corner you catch a glimpse of the permanent collection. It is a stunning space.
“Designer, Maker, User” is the name given to the Design Museum permanent collection, access to which is free. A crowd sourced wall of 200 objects marks the entrance to the gallery. Members of the public in 25 countries nominated their favourites for the wall, its quite fun looking to see how many you recognize as objects that you have used. Once inside, transport is the first main theme. Tube maps, a tube train even and how road signs have changed over the years. Beyond that I don’t know because the rest of the exhibit was not finished when I visited.
If you have the slightest interest in design and happen to be in London, the Design Museum is well worth a jaunt down Kensington High Street, if only to see the building. There is, of course, a well stocked gift shop and a brace of cafés catered by Conran. One is on the ground floor and the other, Parabola, is up by that roof offering views over Holland Park.
224-238 Kensington High Street , London, W8 6AG
Open: Daily 10am-6pm
Admission: Free to building and Designer, Maker, User