The New Design Museum

The Design Museum was founded in 1989 by designer Terence Conran and grew from the basement of the V&A into a former 1940s banana warehouse in Shad Thames which it called home for 24 years.  On the 24th November 2016, following a spectacular opening party, the Design Museum opened it’s doors at the former Commonwealth Institute building in South Kensington.

The Design Museum’s new home, two years later than anticipated, follows a £83-million transformation of the Grade-II*-listed building. The interior has been impeccably designed by architectural designer John Pawson.

From the 24th November 2016 visitors can enjoy 10,000 square metres of gallery spaces. By tripling the space available at its previous location the museum can now offer the permanent display of its collection and two temporary exhibitions.

The large atrium, which features a broad flight of stairs providing a ‘place for people to pause,’ is at the centre of the building and allows the hyperbolic paraboloid roof to be admired.


The Design Museum has been furnished by Vitra, and the £20-million interior fit-out was carried out by Willmott Dixon Interiors. Studio Myerscough designed the permanent display areas and the visual identity was refreshed by Fernando Gutiérrez Studio. Lighting has been devised by Concord, and Cartlidge Levene created the signage system.

Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World is curated by Justin McGuirk and runs concurrently with the ninth edition of the museum’s Designs of the Year. The building hosts the Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning, the Bakala Auditorium, the Sackler Library and Archive and a Designers in Residence Studio. There is also a cafe, a restaurant, and a members’ room.

It is early days for the museum’s new incarnation and although it has been received with exuberant praise but has not been without criticism. Guardian critic Oliver Wainwright said the space felt more like a luxury shop or hotel than a major museum, going on to state that “some of the spaces seem a bit squeezed in around the building’s difficult structure, and there are odd moments of feeling like you’re in a building-within-a-building.”

At Design Insider we are always interested in your opinion and would love to hear your thoughts on the new Design Museum, have you visited? Please comment below or tweet us @DesignInsider1

Images: Gareth Gardner & Gravity Road

About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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